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[LIVE REVIEW] THUNDER + CATS IN SPACE, O2 APOLLO, MANCHESTER, 17th MARCH 2017

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Upon finishing a debut tour in the Land of Oz, Thunder clicked their heels and found themselves back on British soil surrounded by their loyal British fans at the Manchester Apollo. An understated band that are perhaps overlooked in an historical mass of gaudy British rock bands that snatch the limelight by means other than music, Thunder are a no-frills-all-thrills band that have established themselves as a subtle sapphire nestled comfortably within the crown jewels of British music royalty.

But before the Manchester crowd could feast their eyes upon the gleaming constituents that create this gem known as Thunder, support act CATS in SPACE were first to land. With a band title that cries out for prejudicial treatment, CATS in SPACE are a sure testament to the Shakespearean assertion that a band by any other name would sound as sweet. In a flurry of hair, CATS in SPACE exuded melodies comprised of lead vocal acrobatics laced with Paul Stanley remnants, crisp piano chimes, and backing harmonies and guitar parts that often knocked on Queen and ELO archives.

Following the cosmic felines, Thunder began their set shrouded in a black stage cloak, teasing the audience with a partial presence before fully ripping into new track No One Gets Out Alive with the kind of endearing enthusiasm found in a gang of garage band dads who have discovered their instruments for the first time since high school. Fronted by the ceaseless impish grin of Danny Bowes, Thunder is a band fans love to love. Although their rock’n’roll image has waned since their 90s Donington days, the boys still radiate classic rock band charisma, as evidenced by the aerial parading of one lacy bra by a randy chica in the audience.

Whilst Bowes shone with his tumbling vocal garnishes and bluesy sprinklings ethereal enough to rival the likes of Steve Marriott, guitarist Luke Morley delivered solos on tracks such as Don’t Wait For Me and Love Walked In that elicited a stupendous amount of face melting. Morley and partner-in-crime Ben Matthews wielded their axes with the same omnipotence of Thor, striking power stances that air guitarists could only dream of perfecting. I Love You More Than Rock’n’Roll was an especial highlight, producing a gargantuan guitar sound one could grab with both hands, wrap around oneself and wear with the same immortal certainty obtained from the armour of a Greek god.

However, one elephant in the room remained looming throughout the gig. Whilst new album Rip It Up is nothing to be snorted at, it selfishly consumed a hearty chunk of the setlist, forging a gaping hole in the shape of missing classics like Empty City, Low Life in High Places and The Devil Made Me Do It. Tracks like Right From The Start and Rip It Up were based on Thunder’s genius musical formula, but they were the equivalent of presenting the audience with Quorn burgers when they clearly ordered Aberdeen Angus steaks. Even Bowes acknowledged this with his an apologetic line prior to kicking off Love Walked In: “Let’s do one you know now!”

Despite this one qualm, Thunder proved that they remain a force to be reckoned with, a force growing via the Dracula-esque feeding off the ever-present roars of their crowds. May Thunder continue to rumble as long as it continues to rain in Britain.

Catch Thunder on the remainder of their March 2017 UK tour:

Sheffield City Hall – Sat 18th
Newcastle City Hall – Sun 19th
Leicester De Montfort Hall- Tue 21st
Glasgow Clyde Auditorium – Wed 22nd
Cardiff Motorpoint Arena – Fri 24th
Southampton Guildhall – Sat 25th
Ipswich Regent Theatre – Sun 26th
London Eventim Apollo – Tue 28th
Dublin Vicar Street – Thu 30th
Belfast Mandela Hall – Fri 31st

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