Back in the late 90s, Space were a rarity - a band that actually sounded unique. Surrounded by Britpop hopefuls and alt-rock guitar crunchers, their fantastical blend of jangly guitars, electronica-infused beats, movie dialogue samples and tongue in cheek, blackly comedic lyrics formed what became perhaps the most quintessentially British back catalogue since The Kinks at their prime.
They were a breath of fresh air, and briefly had enormous chart success, until record label tangles saw their third album shelved (it remains unreleased), and their fourth sink without a trace. It was an ignoble demise, and after a reunion gig in 2011 featuring three of the original members, the band began work on their forthcoming album, ‘Attack Of The Mutant 50ft Kebab’. Well, quite.
Now that trio is down to two - frontman Tommy Scott, and keyboard wizard Franny Griffiths - but the new iteration of Space are a powerful beast that, dare I say it, knock the spots off their previous incarnations. Joined by second keyboard player Ryan Clarke, double-bass wielding Phil Hartley and drummer Allan Jones, the new members own influences are worn on their sleeves - this is a heavier, bouncier Space than 90s survivors may remember.
The oddball indie-pop survives, but is fused with psychobilly and experimental grooves, with the majority of the old tracks played tonight being reworked from the ground up. The band are on top form throughout, clearly loving the riotous reception the packed out audience at this intimate venue provides, and determined to give it their all. Scott and Clarke cannot stop bouncing for more than two minutes, Hartley darts about the stage, and if Franny and Allan don’t wake up with sore necks from all the nodding, they must be made from rubber.
With old fan favourites like ‘Charlie M’ and ‘A Little Biddy Help From Elvis’ rubbing shoulders with the likes of ‘Avenging Angels’, ‘The Ballad Of Tom Jones’ (complete with the disembodied voice of Cerys Matthews, just as it should be), ‘Neighbourhood’, ‘Female Of The Species’ and the stonking, ska-toned reworking of ‘Me And You Versus The World’, it’d be easy to miss the new songs on offering - yet every single one of them gets the same enamoured response from the assembled crowd. New single ‘Fortune Teller’ is a highlight, as is the album’s ridiculous title track and rocker 'Burn Down The School' - songs that continue that old Space love of pop culture references, but take the music somewhere new.
As the show ends, and Tommy Scott runs off stage and straight into the crowd, it’s a bit of a surprise that such a strong live band has emerged from the ashes of one who, by many accounts, were always much better in the studio than they were on stage. The show never lulled, never languished in a clump of new songs or old hits, and the band were laughing and joking with the crowd and each other throughout.
At their peak, Space were playing massive festivals, appearing on film soundtracks and car adverts and duetting with Tom Jones. The next large crowd they play will be at the punk-themed Rebellion Festival in Blackpool. Judging by this show, and the previews of their forthcoming album, they may just become the highlight of the weekend. They may never scale such commercial heights again, but on the strength of tonight, they’ve never been better.
01. Charlie M 02. Mister Psycho 03. She's in Love With a Boy in a Body Bag 04. Money 05. Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab 06. Avenging Angels 07. Crying on the Webcam 08. A Liddle Biddy Help From Elvis 09. Begin Again 10 .Fortune Teller 11. The Ballad of Tom Jones 12. Happy Clowns 13. Burn Down the School 14. Female of the Species 15. Armageddon 16. Neighbourhood 17. Me & You Vs The World