Catfish & The Bottlemen
The Great Hall, Cardiff
October 29, 2015
It’s been just over a year since Catfish And The Bottlemen released their debut album, ‘The Balcony’, and the hard-touring band have barely been off the road since. The result: worn down batteries. Their Glastonbury 2015 performance only narrowly avoided being pulled altogether after frontman Van McCann fell violently ill, and their first ever Australian and Japanese shows couldn’t be rescued after the same problem hit once they’d arrived down under. With tonight being the closest the Llandudno band will to get to a hometown show on this sold out tour, are these local lads back in fighting form? Or will the gig be as rocky as the path that’s led them here?
No matter what lies ahead, there’s no denying their fans’ enthusiasm and excitement. The atmosphere in the venue is electric, with many unable to contain themselves even to the music blasting out of the PA before the band take the stage, which results in an en masse singalong to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’ – a track that will later become extremely ironic. Rapturous applause greets the four-piece as soon as they emerge and opening track ‘Rango’ allays any fears – there’s no doubt Catfish are back to their best. Frontman Van McCann is like a coiled spring throughout, strutting back and forth with vigorous intent, just waiting to lose himself in the show.
Fate conspires so he can’t fully do that though. It’s not long into the gig before a guitar malfunction causes the band to restart ‘Pacifier’. The crowd are not slowed though, as they continue with an a capella rendition while things get sorted out. McCann takes the hiccup graciously, thanking the crowd for their patience but there’s more to come. The momentum that’s built with ’26’ and ‘Business’ is brought to a grinding halt when the show has to be stopped due a lighting problem, resulting in a performance of ‘Kathleen’ where all four band members are barely visible, blending into the dimly lit background with their trademark all-black wardrobe.
After a short break, McCann returns to the stage sans band for an intimate performance of ‘Hourglass’. After, the rest of his band – guitarist Johnny “Bondy” Bond, bassist Benji Blakeway and drummer Bob Hall – rejoin him and, without any introduction, proceed to unveil new track ‘7’. With a thundering drum beat and chorus that begs to be sung back at them, Catfish aren’t straying from their winning formula, but this track’s darker intonations show they’re honing it to perfection.
Technical issues aside, Catfish And The Bottlemen are faultless in their performance tonight. No matter how many obstacles that keep popping up in front of them – a lighting fault here, a bit of ill health there – if they can continue to overcome them, the Llandudno quartet can only get stronger, better and more powerful. Here’s hoping.
Catfish & The Bottlemen played:
By Laura Johnson