Godsticks - photo by Pete Rogers

Godsticks / Temples On Mars

FUEL Rock Club, Cardiff
Thursday, 22nd June 2023

In a small venue, you get a decent impression of the crowd and their tastes from the t-shirts on display. At this Godsticks show at Fuel Rock Club in Cardiff, alongside the Godsticks t-shirts, I noticed ones for Mastodon, Iron Maiden, Rush, The Dear Hunter and The Aristocrats. That mix of bands kind of sums up Godsticks really; complicated heavy music but with a strong sense of melody and singalong choruses.

The support bands on Godsticks UK tour has changed venue to venue and at this show it was London based band Temples on Mars who warmed up the crowd. They describe themselves as alternative/progressive metal, but they sounded more post-hardcore to my ears. They put on a good show and have some solid tunes, I’ve already been listening to their music as a result of this support slot. Their frontman, New Zealander James Donaldson, treated this like a much bigger and much fuller venue, coming into the crowd to play guitar and climbing up on the amps and jumping off again. It was very rock and roll and set proceedings off perfectly. I do love it when a support band throws caution to the wind and goes big like this!

Temples on Mars (photo by Pete Rogers)Temples on Mars (photo by Pete Rogers)

Godsticks themselves have had a line-up change since I last saw them at the same venue in 2021. Longtime bass player Dan Nelson (Magenta, Cyan) has left the band, despite appearing on their very recently released and rather excellent This is What a Winner Looks Like album. His replacement, Francis George (Parkview), did a great job of filling Dan’s large shoes, not just on bass but also with some excellent backing vocals too. As frontman Darran Charles pointed out, Francis is a striking presence on stage, not just because of his six-string bass. Before making an hilarious joke I can’t repeat here, Darran referred to the new band member as an adonis. He does look like he just walked in from a shift being Jesus Christ Superstar in the West End, it’s fair to say. You would never have known this was only the new bass player’s second gig with the band, as the revised Godsticks line-up is already a tight unit. Dan got a mention in amongst the rest of Darran’s usual banter-filled intros, and his parents had made it along to the show too, suggesting that this was someone leaving a band amicably for once.

Godsticks - photo by Pete Rogers

Darran Charles is one of those annoying talented people who seems to be able to do anything, an excellent songwriter, brilliant guitarist, superb vocalist and hilarious, charismatic frontman all rolled up in one ball of Welshman. When he lets rip and can see the crowd are loving it, the joy on his face is intoxicating. With Tom Price’s powerful drumming and Gavin Bushell’s intricate guitar playing, this foursome is a force to be reckoned with and a real crowd pleaser.

Godsticks - Darran, Tom & Francis - photo by Pete Rogers

The first three songs in the set were from the new album, and If I Don’t Take It All, Throne and Eliminate and Repair teed up the evening very well, and were as well received as any of the back catalogue. Two more new songs slotted into the set later, alongside a mix of songs from the various albums since the band went heavier in general. I was sad not to hear Motion or Breathe from 2020’s Inescapable, but I was very pleased that Surrender was included.

Godsticks - Gavin Bushell (photo by Pete Rogers)Godsticks - Darran Charles & Francis George (photo by Pete Rogers)

On record, I’ve always felt Godsticks were more alt rock than prog metal, not least because Charles’s voice has a touch of the Chris Cornell about him, especially on the Motion acoustic EP. In a live setting their sound gets cranked up to eleven and suddenly with dual guitar players exchanging solos and some djent moments they have a fuller and more powerful sound which fits the prog metal bill perfectly. Godsticks treated the enthusiastic crowd, including a rabid David Draiman lookalike who belted out each lyric so loudly it looked like he might explode at any minute, to a wonderful collection of fifteen songs in total. That’s pretty impressive by anyone’s standards.

Godsticks - photo by Pete Rogers

Godsticks are a very good band on record, but they are a truly great band live. This is as close to head-banging in public that I’ve come in some time, and they definitely scratched my old metal itch. As much as I loved being able to get up close and personal, Godsticks should be playing larger venues than this based on how good they are. They sit alongside Porcupine Tree and the Pineapple Thief, but with a bit more heft and welly, akin to Haken. Like everyone else who made it along to Fuel to see Godsticks, I left the venue with a big beaming smile and ringing ears. They knocked it out of the park, and if you haven’t seen them live I suggest you rectify that on their next tour.

If I Dont Take It All
Eliminate and Repair
Below the Belt
Hard to Face
Dont Say A Word to Me
We are Leaving
Lack of Scrutiny
~ Encore:
Exit Stage Right

Darran Charles – Guitars, Vocals
Gavin Bushell – Guitars
Tom Price – Drums
Francis George – Bass

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