The word ‘underrated’ gets bandied about a lot in the music world—I shit you not, I read someone call Gary Barlow ‘underrated’ the other day—but Liverpool’s Cast are one band that genuinely seem to have slipped under the radar in recent years. Though they received critical acclaim and had a string of hit albums and singles during their heyday, time doesn’t seem to have bestowed Cast with the same mythical status as some of their Britpop peers, and since their reformation in 2010 the band have seemed to straddle the line between rock elder statesmen and cult favourites. Their December UK tour, which is to be followed by an as-yet-untitled new album, came to a close in Manchester on the 21st, and confirmed frontman John Power’s claims that the now-veteran band are sounding better than ever.
Opening in raucous fashion with ‘Time Bomb’ and ‘Promised Land’, they played a tight career-spanning set to their (admittedly, largely middle-aged) audience, all of whom had braved a particularly miserable December night to get involved. Keen to prove they’re not another cash-in reunion act, their recent free download single ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ got an airing early on in the set, sounding much more muscular and anthemic than its folky studio counterpart, to an encouragingly warm reception. The rest of the show, though, relied on tried-and-tested classics such as the upbeat Stones-y swagger of ‘Beat Mama’, the giddy pop of ‘Guiding Star’, and their signature ballad ‘Walkaway’, which gave the show its mandatory lighters-in-the-air moment.
Whilst the songs speak for themselves, it was the band’s longstanding chemistry that truly makes them so appealing to witness live; Power’s trebly, scouse-tinted wail has held up gracefully over time, and Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson’s guitar playing is some of the most innovative to come out of his era, shining particularly on ‘History’, where his effects-laden, otherworldly riff is pushed to the forefront—it’s not surprising that he moonlights as Robert Plant’s right hand man when not playing with Cast. The show ended on the rousing fan favourite ‘Alright’ from their landmark debut All Change, which is in many ways the quintessential Cast track—loud, proud and relentlessly optimistic, with its soaring “there ain’t nothing you can’t do” coda serving as a perfect four-minute antidote to the troubled times of the present day.