Promptly arriving on stage at 8:45pm, the notorious party-starters The Cat Empire kicked off their EU and UK tour with Ready Now – a firing blaze of trumpets, tropical drum rhythms and quick-footed dance moves. Taken from their new album Stolen Diamonds, teased month by month and eventually put out in its entirety in February this year, Ready Now set the tone for an inclusive, genre-bending set list that got everyone and their grandmothers dancing.
At the opening of the title track from the new album, co-lead vocalists Felix Reibl and Harry James Angus switched roles, the former tapping out a splintering rhythm on the conga drums and the latter reaching new vocal heights at each chorus. Angus’ beautiful, Joe Dukie of Fat Freddy’s Drop-esque tone echoed around the Amphitheatre, putting a smile on everyone’s faces – from the sound tech to the front rowers. Oscar Wilde, which opens with a sweet melody straight out of a Disney film, is a fan-favourite that sent couples into frenzied salsa dancing and groups of families and friends to wild gesturing and bounce-dancing. Their set started as it meant to go on – party-friendly, upbeat and utterly infectious.
Stepping back nine years into the past, Call Me Home was an anthem for the loyal listeners in the crowd (of whom made up about 80%) who turned the song into a heart-warming call and response moment. As the end section of the song spun out in a long trumpet, keys and sax breakdown, the audience bust out their very best moves; you couldn’t help but soak up the positive vibes exuded by groups of friends showing off the kind of dance-like-nobodies-watching moves only your bedroom walls have seen. The band are not in the habit of writing songs that just fizzle out, each ends with an epic, improv-style bang.
The crowd were prepared to keep moving all night long and the Aussie outfit didn’t give them a chance to stop. Brighter Than Gold, a standout single from their Steal the Light record, re-ignited the flames of their early 2010s festival sound. They’re a curious blend of reggae, ska, jazz, funk, soul and everything else in between, and this track really pushed the masterful team of instrumentalists to their limits. The chorus burst into euphoria, and together we sang: “All night awake / In the moonlight I’m with you”, each one of us feeling brighter than gold.
There was no slowing down as the band came to their final few tracks, vamping up the tempo with the title track from the Steal the Light record. This is an album filled with good choruses, but Steal the Light is something special. “What if I’m lonely? / What if the skies should fall and disappear?” we cried at each other, flailing our legs and arms, crashing and springing and bouncing off one another. Before we knew it, they were gone (only for a second) and back again to send us off with a triple encore. It was only fitting to appease the audience’s desperate cries for “one more song”.
Those in the crowd last night were especially lucky. Not just to experience what it is to fall headfirst into a Cat Empire party, but also to find a wonderful night of escapism from real life. The Cats are the perfect antidote to mundanity; like a dynamic, funk-soul-jazz-ska-marching mariachi band that is impossible not to fall in love with.
Read More: Review: Tom Misch, Bristol Sounds 2019