The Trials Of Cato – Night & Day Cafe, Manchester – 18th November 2022
Oh, the ignominy of being caught by one of the band while ‘liberating‘ a souvenir poster from the wall of the venue…so, moving swiftly on….
The Trials of Cato are creeping up on Fairport as one of the bands we feature on our ages on a regular basis. A couple of visits to The Met in Bury and most recently on the bill at Underneath The Stars festival. Back in March 2020 they were a stone’s throw away, down Oldham Street at The Castle and this evening at the excellent Night & Day (maybe just over the road next to Gullivers for an Oldham Street hat trick?).
Support tonight is from Good Habits; ‘musical nomads’ Pete and Bonnie are a cello/accordion duo whose effervescence is catching and finds them endearing themselves to any ‘proper’ Mancs in the room ending with a cover of She Bangs The Drum
Back to The Trials though, who are touring with a purpose – to promote the new (second) album, Gog Magog, which is finally out on 25th November. Watch for our review. where we’ll head in a tad deeper, but a clutch of songs naturally feature tonight as they have done for a while now. Played in before recording so they’re a much a part of the set now as the Hide And Hair material.
Watching the stage act develop over the last few years has been interesting. There are shifts in’ visuals’, kind of, and we’re getting used to Polly Bolton’s green patterned trouser suit now; a vibrant splash of centre-stage colour! Tonight (Matthew), Robin Jones and Tomos Williams in what under less harsh lighting might be gleaming white T-shirts and there’s a subtle shift in sharing out the between-song patter; Tomos is much more forthcoming, adding song intros to his musical multi-tasking.
Fashion notes aside, even though The Trials is subtle tweaking their look and banter, the music is reassuringly familiar and on point. Having said that, while Robin and Polly remain on the (plugged-in) acoustic instruments, the keyboard and electric guitar at Tomos’ side help add to the organic textures and up close, there’s the chance to appreciate how active all three are multi-tasking with the feet, tapping out rhythms and adding some depth to the bottom end.
Their arrival onstage is low key, warming up with a gentle workout on some tunes before we’re greeted and introduced to a pumped up jazzy-funky Ring Of Roses almost scat sung by Polly and the standard traditional Bedlam Boys where all three voices add to the almost ancient tale.
There are approving cheers of recognition for Haf and much singing along from a lively and appreciative lot on Gloria and Tom Paine’s Bones. Two albums in and they’ve already got signature songs and crowdpleasers! I guess you can say they’ve conquered Manchester. They can afford to leave out These Are The Things – which as a bit of a protest song and one which can always be spun into some topical relevance, is a bold choice.
Historical events continue to remain a strong element of the new material. The force of Boudicca is celebrated in AD60; the tale of the Fenland Queen sung by Polly with an arrangement that reins in some of the fire of the protagonist and she provides a similarly easy vocal on Paper Planes that’s much deeper than the title suggests.
Amidst the tune sets that pay homage to the band’s two-thirds Welsh original, the song that’s a lilting tribute to the sleepy and picturesque village of Aberdaron is possibly the surprise set highlight. Yes, there are tune sets that stir the blood and get the feet and dancing shoes moving, but even sung in Welsh, which is alien for many of us (despite living in North Wales for nigh on a decade) Aberdaron is a moving piece.
Witnessing the evolution – as they say, “The Trials continue” – of this increasingly growing in stature trio is always a pleasure.
Categories: Live Reviews