As Cast ended their UK Greatest Hits tour with a homecoming show, I was sent along on behalf of Getintothis’ to see what all the fuss was about. And make a Christmas list.
If I were a senior editor on an online publication, not unlike Getintothis, I might be slightly wary about who I would send to cover a Cast homecoming show at the Mountford Hall. You could send the seasoned pro, who has been around the city for a dozen Cast homecoming shows, or someone who has been around to watch their growth from the early days, witnessing their painful second album, their onstage arguments, their solo shows, someone who has seen it all, good and bad.
You could, if you were so inclined, send us. Our only experience of Cast has been via whatever the wireless has thrown up in recent years and whatever CDs have been left lying around and forgotten in the age of cloud-based playlists. It’s not that we’re not fans, we are, it’s just that the stars have never aligned to allow us to see them live.
Our history starts with Power and The La’s and we have more or less kept a watching brief on them since. We’ve just never seen them before tonight. So, you might suggest, that on some far-off planet, we are probably the best ones from the team of willing volunteers to send along. If we make any mistakes or piss anyone off there isn’t any real comeback to be worried about, or at least not written off easily, and if we’re really impressed then maybe we might bring a couple of newbies along. Who knows.
If the newbies make it as far as the end of the review maybe we’ll find out. Though given the crowd there are few newbies here, there’s also a lot of musicians kicking about. A couple of singers at any rate, and a Scottish lad by the name of Alan McGee. No idea who he was. As far as a review of the night might go, you’d probably expect us to give you the lowdown on their career to date; we won’t, there’s really no point given the gig audience or the one reading this on the train.
You might expect us to cover how much of a tour they’ve been on; again, there’s little point in hanging about. It’s been 14 dates long and ends here before the Aussie dates next year, that’s a Christmas break if anyone is counting. Heres the thing, we’re much more interested in a nugget of information we stumbled across at the end of last week.
And frankly, it’s fucking astounding.
There were, and we were reliably informed by more than one source, 250 tickets held back for the guestlist. Two hundred and fifty. That’s an incredible number. We know its Christmas and all, and you’re supposed to give gifts, but 250 is on the kind of scale you get with regional fundraisers for kids charities. In fact, it’s probably more than you might expect. £24.75 a pop was the last number we saw for tickets online. That’s £6,187.50 on freebies for mates, label folk, management, promoters, grannies, parents and pals.
It’s an even more unbelievable number when you consider the costs incurred for putting a 14 date tour on. Hotels, splitter vans, and gear trailers don’t come cheap. How does anyone make any money in this game? As an aside, if anyone has seen the rider, we will pay good money for a nosy. We saw the guestlist on the way in obviously, pages upon pages on a clipboard seemingly incapable of holding the required number of pages for 250 freeloaders.
Sadly, we missed Kendos as they weren’t listed on the Twitter line up and came on stage at the frankly unreasonable hour of 7.15. We hope they enjoyed their set, for those who are interested, and you should be, Kieth O’Neill shared a snippet of their set and its worth a look. As for times, well, we’ve been through this before though. Seriously, 7.15pm start times? Never going to make that lad, never.
Liverpool lads The Bohos have been on support duty for much of the Cast tour and at a guess, we imagine it’s costing them a bomb too. We’d hazard a guess this is the biggest room they’ve played. They didn’t disappoint.
They pounce onstage at 8pm and launch into a scuzzy, ferocious set that rarely lets up. There is a fine line between cocky and confident and The Bohos frontman dances along it like a man possessed, deprived of the ability to know how far he can push the boundaries, and sometimes, just sometimes, failing.
He throws himself around the stage like the floor itself is about to give way and he’s not really sure where the boards might be weak. Their songs are fuzzy, full of feedback and finely tuned, it’s blessed relief to see that a significant number of punters have managed to get here in time enough to see them.
The response they get is bloody good, given that a fairly high proportion of those in attendance will likely never have seen them before. We did hope that they brought some merch and that the levels of selflessness and charity on display in the run up to the show translated into a few sales, they deserve it.
Cast are clearly running the show around here, when you hang around photo pits and side stage you see where the power lies. No pun intended. They may have been 15 minutes late but neither they nor the audience cared much. When they did appear they were met with what can only be described as a true hero’s welcome. The crowd seemed to collectively lose their minds.
As Power muttered the words ‘all roads lead to Liverpool’ the collective may have slipped over the edge into utter madness for a moment or two, such was the sheer volume in the room. They opened with Time Bomb, Do That and See that Girl, though when you’re in the pit trying to get shots amid the red lights it can be tricky to keep a watchful eye on the reactions of punters at the same time.
Once we were in a position to pay attention to the actual gig there were a few things of note that sit neatly in a review of this sort. We’ll make a list. Sitting comfortably?
Let us begin.
1. This was indeed the greatest hits tour and they not only had a huge guestlist but a capacity venue sized backing choir. There wasn’t a single spot in the room where there wasn’t joyous singing throughout, though whether it was in tune or not is an entirely different question.
2. It took an average of two songs to get a pint, and whoever decided that ‘two pint pots’ was likely to speed things up were incorrect. To be fair to the venue and the frazzled, harassed staff, we are normally shit at timing these things. Still, that’s a bit of a wait. Mind you, the room, sound and tech made up for it.
3. The number of punters under 25 could be counted on one hand. This was a gig for the old timers, if you struggled to find a babysitter on Saturday night I imagine that Cast would send their apologies.
4. This was the definition of a party gig. A proper singalong, arm waving, dancing like your nan, not giving a shit about what anyone thought, party. If thats not what a Saturday night with the local hero’s is all about then we don’t know what is.
With a set that included perfect renditions of Magic Hour, Paperchains and a rousing version of Walkaway that gave the choir a run for their money, it was a finely tuned beast of a thing. They finish the first part of their set on a tremendously stretched out Free Me, throwing themselves around with absolute abandon, clearly under the same influence as the audience.
We just hoped it wasn’t under the influence of the ‘two-pint pots’ of Guinness as frankly, there is no call for that to be a thing, regardless of the discount. It’s inconceivable that that can taste even remotely okay given that most bar staff struggle to pour a decent pint of stout in this town. Seriously. Go to the Ship and Mitre if you want a good stout, and don’t get it by the litre.
As it stood they didn’t take too long to come back on stage given the volume of the reception they got at the end, and possibly the location of the dressing rooms. Highlights for us were the sheer lunacy of Free Me and for the punishment wah wah pedal got alone, History stands out as a proper moment.
It’s a joy to watch the lads careen around the stage and give every ounce to every note on tracks like this, its where you see them at their best. Everything is turned up to ten, every strobe is on and menacingly distorting every available surface, everything is drowned in echo and reverb, its fucking beautiful. By the time they end the show on Alright the place has slipped into some other insane realm.
At shows like this, you can tell when things get properly lairy as the medics and security staff start to look nervous. There’s sweat pouring down the walls, the crowd is one thing, melding into each other, a singalong that is by this stage just a cacophony of noise, there’s moshing, crowd surfing, and not one single body in the whole room standing still. Beautiful stuff.
As the clock strikes 10.50, the band exits stage left and the Mountford Hall crew kick into action, bolt cutters are dragged out to deal with the crowd barrier within minutes of house lights up. There’s probably all kinds of hopes and dreams being made or killed in here at their next event. They’re called exams.
So, what of our first live experience of Cast? Not a bad bloody show that, not bad at all. We shouldn’t leave it so long next time. What do you pay these days for flights to Australia? We could make a holiday out of it, it would avoid the mountain of marking waiting at home at any rate.