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CAST @ HMV RITZ, MANCHESTER 4/4/2012 - REVIEW BY NIGEL CARTNER

‘THE RETURN OF THE RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE’

Cast’ are back with their first album in eleven years, titled ‘Troubled Times’. With a series of gigs announced to compliment the new album, ticket demand has been high, which may have caused the unexpected move from playing Manchester Academy to the HMV Ritz just weeks beforehand, a venue more capable of housing the scores of fans that descended upon this prestigious venue. For those that are unfamiliar with their impact, ‘Cast’ were one of the most highly rated bands to come out of an era of great indie rock music back in the mid 90s. They were certainly one of the pioneers that graced a movement now gone down in folklore. Their debut album, ‘All Change Now’ was Polydor’s fastest ever selling album in 1995, out selling Jim Hendrix, The Who and The Jam, which pays tribute to their popularity at the time. Even Noel Gallagher likened their live shows as being a “religious experience.”

‘Cast’s’ songs are instantly recognisable, even for those who haven’t heard of the band by name. Their music bears all the hallmarks of a classic indie/rock merseybeat, words that are written from the heart of Liverpool and a voice that doesn’t try to be anything else but true to the roots of where the music was born. After several top ten hit singles, and two further successful albums, ‘Cast’ seemed to drift away on the back of an album that stalled to make any progress in the charts as the dark ages of teen pop sensations clouded many people’s judgement as we approached the millennium.

John Power and Peter Wilkinson, who both created the band on the back of the split from ‘The La’s’ and ‘The Shack’ still performed solo throughout 2001-2009, even briefly reforming their previous bands for a series of gigs. It was announced in 2011 that the band would be releasing a new album through Pledgemusic in November that year, with physical releases scheduled for April 2012. The band have recognised that times have changed in the industry since their illustrious beginnings. They’ve released the record outside of the mainstream labels, using Pledgemusic, a platform for fans to input through the use of blogs, becoming more involved in the records release. This brings us up-to-date and why we are here tonight, to relive the magic of a band that helped establish the Britpop era.

It’s very difficult for a band that’s been away for so long to come and tour with a new album in tow. With time, past songs become legendary, which holds testimony in itself that ‘Cast’s’ music has remained so popular against the highest judge in music, withstanding time. After a brief exodus and the chance to see the band perform all the songs that invoked an emotion ten to fifteen years earlier certainly appeals to the sentimental parts of the fans’ souls. However, when a new album is thrown into the mix, the crowd can be very subdued as they wait impatiently for a recognisable track to liven up and relive a past youth. That’s precisely what happened on this night. It’s not that material from the new album isn’t good, far from it, but with so much time passing they’ll always be compared to the vigorous and fiery tracks from decades earlier, which admittedly is unfair. I sensed that many fans weren’t as interested in the new era. Everyone expected the classics which the band delivered with songs such as ‘Finetime’, ’Alright’ and the emotional ‘Walkaway’ being played to a crowd that could turn boisterous in a flash, making the atmosphere electric, but then were instantly suppressed on tracks they didn’t know from the new album. The older tracks are lively and dynamic, full of a youthful mentality that instigates memories and a connection from what was going on at the time. With the album not being officially physically released, it’s hard for fans to have time to get into the new songs and maybe it was just a sense of timing why periods of the set were far less energetic than others. Having said that, the new material is good, a bit slower to what we came to associate ‘Cast’ with. The tunes show a maturity in structure and a wiser approach to song writing that differs from their sound many years ago.

‘Cast’ are a legendary band and will always be remembered for their part in the mid 90s movement. Whether the new album is a success remains to be seen, and you can’t begrudge any band making records while a fire still burns deep inside, but the album will probably appeal more to the hardcore fans rather than draw in any new followers unfamiliar with their work. However, for those that threw themselves into their world at the time, and for those that missed the boat and grew to appreciate them afterwards, it was a pleasure and a cherished experience to witness them perform old classics that formed part of the soundtrack to what growing up in the mid to late 90s was really like.

New album available through www.pledgemusic.com/projects/cast

Review by Nigel Cartner
Phoots by Matt Johnston