A lot can happen in a decade. 10 years ago, to most people, Donald Trump was that billionaire guy from America who made a cameo appearance in Home Alone 2, Brexit was but a twinkle in Nigel Farage’s myopic brain and Rusty Shackle, from Caldicot, were a bunch of mates writing music and having a bit of a laugh.
Of the three above, the only thing that hasn’t changed is that Rusty Shackle are still a bunch of mates writing music and having a bit of a laugh. The difference, however, is that they’re doing it with four studio albums under their belt, a couple of US tours in the bag and a hometown show in front of 2000 friends, family and fans to talk about. Not bad, eh?
The Gate, in Cardiff, is a pretty spectacular place to kick off this six-date birthday Spring tour and, rather embarrassingly, it was a venue I’d not previously experienced. A converted church, it has an unique feel and natural atmosphere that just makes you go “wow”.
For a 10th birthday celebration you’d expect stellar support acts and stellar support acts we got. First up, Cardiff singer-songwriter Sion Russell Jones played to a decent sized, well engaged audience. Sion has already built up a fair following and big things await the finger picking guitarist, who’s got the songs and ability to go with the confidence, which the crowd enthusiastically fed off.
Next up, another Cardiff act and long-time cohorts of the Shackle, Ofelia, do what they do best with a set full to the brim of melody, harmony and hair. Lots of hair. They joke with the crowd “we were a six piece, then five, then four, now three” before teasing it will one day be a one piece. Again, jokes. We hope!
The 350 sell-out crowd suitably warmed and brimming with anticipation, the birthday boys Liam, Scott, Baz, Ryan and George, dressed in black like the last gang in town, entered the stage to rapturous applause.
Opening with fan favourite “When The Morning Comes” from 2016’s “Dusk” album, the tone is instantly set and the band run through what is essentially a hit parade, depending on how you define a hit. In this case, if you’ve got a room full of feverish fans singing your songs back at you…it’s a hit.
“Hanging Johnny”, from last year’s superb album “The Raven, The Thief & The Hangman” and already a Shackle classic is followed by “Last Stop” (hit), “Late Night Living” (hit) and “Thinking” (hit). “Newport Rising”, a pulse-pounding anthem gets the fists pumping and the hysteria of “Lucinda Returned” draws a close to what is effectively part one of the show.
A birthday celebration wouldn’t quite be right without a reunion and it’s important not to forget the part that former drummer Owen and guitarist James (sharp haircut and clean white shirt duly noted) played in shaping the success of the band. The two clearly revel in their moment back in the limelight and rightly so. “We’ve only had one practice yesterday” claims Owen, but you wouldn’t think it. Once a pro, always a pro.
They run through more crowd pleasers including “Cold Hearted Town”, their scintillating version of “Cumberland Gap” and a cover of “Bonkers” that pre-dates even their 2012 debut album. A party is not quite a party without it! Ryan gets the rare opportunity to get out his trumpet (don’t) and seems to enjoy it just as much as the crowd do (just don’t).
The two ex-bandmates withdraw to the crowd and after further old and new favourites including the literally crowd splitting “Sam Hall” and “3am”, they’re welcomed back on stage for one last re-union, along with their support cast and long-time manager Jez, who will no doubt enjoy this shout out. They end with their cover “Praise You”, which feels like an ode to their long time fans and even break the 11 o’clock curfew. Those pesky folk ‘n’ rollers!
There’s an extremely new adage that goes something like “you know it’s been a good night when two fans leave the venue with a pair of limited-edition band boxer shorts on their head”. It was that type of night, one which the band have orchestrated hundreds of times in their career. In a world where barely anything is a given, I think we can safely say these certified folkstars will still be having a laugh and making memorable songs in another 10 years.
All photos credited to Natasha Collins