It is beyond my powers of description to convey my feelings at the end of this gig. To say I was completely overwhelmed would be an understatement. Upon seeing a friend after the set had finished, I was unable to form many words other than “fucking great” or “amazing” constantly interrupted by a smile I couldn’t shake off. The Cat Empire, celebrating their tenth year as a band re-affirmed their place in my heart as my favourite band on Saturday night, absolutely blitzing the Corner Hotel for over two hours. The pure energy that reverberated around the venue as they punched out their warm up jam is the reason we keep returning to see them at every opportunity.
After a few songs there was a slight break, with the two lead singers conferring on what do play next, only for Callum to yell from next to me, in a moment of drunken genius, “play Smells Like Teen Spirit”. What followed was what really defines The Cat Empire, and something most bands could benefit from noting. Their jazz and reggae pedigree shone through as they put on a raucous, impromptu, albeit slightly under-prepared rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit. Harry exclaimed “We’re only going to play it of you act like would at a Nirvana gig, go mental.” We did our best to oblige and after two and half minutes the band finally halted, having satisfied my musical taste from the completely opposite end of the musical spectrum. My joy at scrambling for a set list at the end of the gig confirmed that the band had for the most disregarded the instructions it provided. Jumping between new and old, the band traversed their history and showed their consistent favour for upbeat and incredibly catchy tunes tempered by extended improvised jams. Two Shoes was a highlight, Felix belting his lungs out in his distinctive, sinuous voice. The lyrics I must point out which have always resonated as clever and joyous: “and on my mouth a great big smile, to my friends it brings happiness and to my enemies it brings defeat” and “Not the songs we’re told to like but the songs that make me dance along.” This is probably my favourite song from the band, and close to the high point of the night, although there was very little to be unhappy about.
Felix and Harry shared duties in leading the band, singing and then swapping back to the marimbas and the trumpet respectively. The set continued until the relative live rarity that is Hello was played, the song that really launched their mainstream success pleased a loyal crowd. This was surrounded by the ominous The Darkness, during which Harry Angus demonstrated the versatility of his largely forgotten scatting and the ever glorious Wine Song. How to Explain ended the main set, not one person moving for a second while screaming for an encore. The band happily provided, allowing Dj Jumps to scratch a brilliant vinyl solo, only bested by Will Hull-Brown’s insane jazz drum solo, both backed up by the band with something like a cover of Wipeout by The Surfaris.
After over two hours, the set ended, The Chariot saw everyone in the audience screaming “our weapons are our instruments, made from timber and steel, we never yielded to conformity but stood like kings in a chariot that’s riding on a record wheel!” At the top of my lungs, I sang along, dancing uncontrollably, utterly filled with joy at the outstanding set. You would have no idea they had already played a show during the day, and four more in the three days preceding, their sheer energy impossible to resist. Live music is something that is hardly comparable to any other experience, something brilliant and energetic, powerful and joyful, which are all qualities that are illustrated in a Cat Empire performance. This gig is only matched by Iggy Pop earlier in the year and easily made its way into one of my favourite musical memories of all time.