Rarely have I seen a band as intent on showcasing as much raw talent as genre-defying Australian legends The Cat Empire. It is also equally rare to see the sweaty-heaving crowds at the Brixton O2 Academy dancing with such reckless abandon or wearing expressions of such exasperated jubilation as I witnessed during the final moments of this simply spectacular two hour set.
With more breakdowns, solos, digressions and jams thrown into the usual array of hits than ever, The Cat Empire also pursue a promotional agenda for latest album Cinema, something they did to perfection. I can fully appreciate how tempting it must be for a band touring hot on the heels of a new album to play as much new material as possible: after all, the old songs have been played to death, right? But thankfully the crowd-pleasing Empire did no such thing, and instead produced a set comprising a perfect cross-section of their four albums. I was delighted to hear them resurrect “Hello”, a song that unfortunately landed them in infamy in the early days when it unexpectedly hit the top of the Triple J Hottest 100 in Australia and was subsequently played relentlessly across radio waves – much to the annoyance of more or less every Australian I’ve ever discussed it with.
If hyper-extended jammed up versions of songs such as “Darkness” and all time great “The Chariot” (including a Pulp Fiction solo) aren’t reason enough to hand over your hard earned coins for a ticket to see these guys, then the stage show certainly is – if there is one thing The Cat Empire do well it’s flare. Very few bands could ever hope to pull off a six minute drum solo right in the middle of a song without descending into eye-rolling ego-masturbatory drivel. The Cat Empire, however, pull it off constantly – first with drums, then with brass, piano, vocals and even decks (yes – world class scratching is included). What’s more, they achieve these feats of musicianship with all the style and poise of Santana at Woodstock 1969 rather than the embarrassing fail of some modern equivalent – I probably need an example here but I can’t think of one as I generally walk away from bands when it starts.
In summary: I think it is fair to say The Cat Empire offer up music you can’t help but gyrate your frame to, a stage show that will melt your face and a value for money factor of a trip to the moon bought for 50p on eBay.
Must see at all costs!
Review by James Hough