WELSH ASSEMBLED

"I've had about four scripts. One of them was soft porn and the other one was to do with selling Ecstasy," she says...

Catatonia play their biggest outdoor show yet this Saturday at Margam Park, Port Talbot with swupport from Ian Brown and Bjorn Again. The band played two comparatively tiny gigs last weekend at Llangollen in North Wales. NME‘s April Long was there with a taster of what fans can expecct this weekend.

Punters wrapped themselves in Welsh flags to combat the chilly weather as they flooded into Llangollen International Pavilion, which added extra marquees in order to accommodate an additional 1,500 people beyond its 4,500 capacity. The all-day event, which was repeated on Sunday, featured support from Richard Parfitt, Big Leaves, Shack and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.

At a press conference preceding Catatonia’s performance, Cerys Matthews explained why the band chose Llangollen for the two shows – the largest Catatonia have ever played in Wales: “We had the idea of playing Margam Park because nobody had ever been there before, but it’s very important for us to play North Wales as well, and Llangollen seemed ideal.”

“North Wales was the first place we ever encountered people who sang along with all our songs, even the Welsh words to ‘International Velvet’,” added guitarist Owen Powell.

Matthews confirmed that she had been recording with Tom Jones, but denied flirting with an acting career. “I’ve never had any desire to act,” she stated, then added, “but I’ve had about four scripts. One of them was soft porn and the other one was to do with selling Ecstasy. And they both said they based the characters on me!”

Powell also denied that the band would be playing any ‘millennium concerts’ (“I can’t think of a place more horrible to be than standing in a cold rugby stadium on New Year’s Eve”), and hinted the next single would be ‘Londinium’. “We chose ‘Karaoke Queen’ originally,” Matthews said, “but were advised it might not get as much radio play. I don’t care which song it is, as I have tremendous pride for all our three-minute compositions.”

And proud is certainly the demeanour of the band when they came onstage to suitably exultant opener ‘Storm The Palace’. Matthews shimmied across the stage in vertiginous heels and a slinky black dress hemmed with gold and red tassels. After second number ‘I Am The Mob’ she welcomed the audience and introduced ‘Game On’ in Welsh. Tuned in to the atmosphere of patriotic fervour, she spoke Welsh almost exclusively all night, and when a heckler shouted “What?” after she thanked the support bands, she shot back teasingly, “Didn’t you understand? I said they were bollocks!”

Hammy theatrics unchecked, Matthews gesticulated broadly throughout the bucolic ‘Dead From The Waist Down’ and spun in circles like a music box ballerina during ‘Why I Can’t Stand One Night Stands’. Animated babies flickered across a screen while Cerys strutted through ‘She’s A Millionaire’, and a spinning disco ball descended for ‘Karaoke Queen’. When someone tossed her a lip gloss Matthews screeched, “This is from Superdrug!”, and when she was handed an inflatable alien she inspected its genitalia and handed it back. ‘Road Rage’, ‘Sweet Catatonia’ and ‘Strange Glue’ were played in succession prior to the encore, eliciting feverish admiration. “This is a first for us,” Matthews announced in a spate of English, “our very own festival!” She disappeared for several minutes, while the crowd waved lighters and chanted, “Cerys! Cerys!” Then a harpist joined her for a beautiful ‘Bulimic Beats’.

The band reappeared for ‘Nothing Hurts (Everything Is Beautiful)’, ‘Mulder And Scully’ and – the inevitable anthemic concluding climax – ‘International Velvet’. Dancing with a Welsh flag, Matthews thumped her chest to illustrate a palpitating heart as she – and every person in the pavilion – roared, “Every day when I wake up/I thank the Lord I’m Welsh”. Today, it was easy to see why.