Thunder brought the venue’s summer series of live music events to a memorable close last weekend with an exclusive event that saw tickets sell out in just 3 days.
Supported by Cats in Space and Hand of Dimes, Thunder join an impressive list of past headliners including Ocean Colour Scene and Tony Hadley as they perform at what is fast becoming one of Wales’ most magical music venues.
Set in the in the heart of Caerphilly, the 13th century castle pulled open its gates to 1600 privileged Thunder fans; all eager to see the band perform in one of the country’s most unique and exclusive settings.
Set before a stunning backdrop of one the greatest medieval castles in Western Europe, Cats In Space took to the stage first, treating the crowd to a generous helping of classic 70’s rock.
Kicking off with “Too Many Gods” from their debut album of the same name; Cats In Space delivered a solid setlist emulating influences from 10cc, ELO and Queen. ‘Clown In Your Nightmare’ is a highlight, flaunting Paul Manzi ‘s raw and powerful vocals. The band close the set with a well-received rendition of ‘Five Minute Celebrity’ before passing on the baton to local band Hand of Dimes.
Led by ex-Kooga members Nev MacDonald and Neil Garland; Hand of Dimes worked their magic to deliver a powerful performance enriched with an array of tracks taken from their debut album ‘Raise’. Nev’s gloriously compelling vocals ignite the historic castle courtyard; daring the crowd not to join in with classic Kooga favourites, ‘Like I’ve Ever Known’ and ‘House Of Love’.
Much like their predecessors, Hand of Dimes don’t fail to deliver by sticking to what they do best; good old-fashioned rock and roll embellished with catchy guitar riffs and the distinctive bluesy undertones of the late 70’s. The basis of which have continued to remain at the heart of Thunder’s success during the last 21 years.
As the main event edges nearer, it’s not long before the castle grounds fill up with a congregation of loyal rock fans. An air of excitement can be felt throughout the historic castle court yard and chants of “Thunder” echo amongst the medieval towers as the crowd welcome one of Britain’s best kept secrets to the stage.
The atmosphere is electric from the first opening riff of “Wonder Days”. Danny’s voice is flawless as always and sounds just as good as it did in the early 90s as he launches into “Backstreet Symphony” after sound renditions of more recent tracks “The Enemy Inside, “Serpentine” and “Resurrection Day”.
What is it that makes Thunder so special to their fans? I found the answer whilst talking to one of their many loyal followers. After seeing the band for the first time in 1990 at their legendary opening gig at Donnington (and countless times since); Mike fondly refers to Thunder as a “national treasure.” perhaps the most “famous un-famous band” of their generation. Predominantly known as a “meat and potatoes band”, there are no unnecessary 15-minute guitar solos thrown in to the set just because the band need to take a breather. When playing live they are in their natural habitat, there is never an “off night”. Thunder are the “the last hurrah of classic rock.”
As the band relentlessly move from one crowd pleaser to the next, I wonder what more could possibly be said about the band that continue to deliver one faultless show after another. It’s been almost 30 years since Thunder’s first gig at Southend, yet fans are still able to rely on a high-energy and solid performance each and every time they see them play live. Today at Caerphilly Castle is no different.
You can barely hear Danny over the singing of the crowd as they join in with the spine chilling melodic ballad “Love Walked In”, followed by a more upbeat favourite “I love you more than rock and roll”.
Almost as soon as it started the 90-minute set is brought to a close not long before the crowd welcome the band back to the stage to play their final encore. As the lights go down Danny jokes with the crowd “You know what this is don’t you?” working up the crowd before lurching into an extended version of early classic “Dirty Love” with just as much energy as he opened the show.
Whilst they don’t break the mold, Thunder brought Caerphilly Castle to life. With their exquisite live performance combined with Danny’s iconic vocals; they are an understated yet undeniable force to be reckoned with.
I had never been to a Thunder gig before that memorable weekend in July. However, like many fans that have come before me, I leave the venue with my ears still ringing and with a smile on my face I think to myself, “until next time…”
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Written By: Samantha Swindlehurst
Event Photography By: Neil Swindlehurst