Catfish And The Bottlemen/La Roux – Scala, London, Thursday, September 3
Noisy riffs and delicate disco combine at Zig-Zag Rolling With… gig
There’s quite a gulf between the styles of La Roux and Catfish And The Bottlemen, but the eclecticism on display tonight only serves to amp up the effect this joint gig has on the crowd crammed into the Scala.
Opening the finale of the Zig-Zag Rolling With… campaign, a certain swagger accompanies La Roux’s Elly Jackson as she slides into the smooth groove of ‘Uptight Downtown’, bolstered by her band’s slick tropical funk. Seguing into reliable crowd-pleaser ‘In For The Kill’, she bears none of the signs of the tour fatigue that has plagued her in the past, and the revelation that this is La Roux’s last gig of 2015 lends the set a celebratory air.
As Jackson prances between hits old and new, her four-piece band morph the electro-pop of debut album ‘La Roux’ into sun-dappled funk jams, to fit with last year’s ‘Trouble In Paradise’. It’s largely down to the jamming feel, lovingly maintained by Jackson’s suited and booted guitarist Ed Seed and drummer Will Bowerman, that the performance is such a blast.
Well honed since the release of ‘Trouble In Paradise’, the repurposing of material is smooth. The morose, midtempo ‘Colourless Colour’ breaks down into a bright shuffle midway through; ‘Let Me Down Gently’ blossoms from heartbreak ballad into funk guitar-backed disco jam; the recorded stalkery monologue in ‘Tigerlily’ tumbles into a long, theatrical pause. It’s a shame Jackson feels compelled to end with mega-smash ‘Bulletproof’ because there’s much more of her immaculate pop material that she could be playing around with; the meandering ‘Silent Partner’, for example, is notably absent from the setlist.
It’s an impeccably rehearsed, but still fresh performance, and the same can be said of Catfish And The Bottlemen’s 45 minutes. Clad in trademark black and clearly recovered from the illness that forced the cancellation of dates in Japan and Australia in July, frontman Van McCann exudes energy like a furnace. His bandmates don’t shine as brightly tonight, but that doesn’t seem to matter – the crowd is here to watch McCann, and they adore him. The mop-haired 22-year-old is very willing – between songs he pauses to pose for a fan’s photo – but it’s his frantic headbanging and stage-prowling that really strike a chord.
From the winning thrum of opener ‘Rango’ to the dramatic strobe flashes of closer ‘Tyrants’, the Llandudno four-piece craft a pretty irresistible live experience. Aside from the mania possessing some of the Catfish fans close to the front, it’s the clear, clever pacing of the set – the transition from the frantic ‘Homesick’ into ‘Cocoon’’s bleary singalong is particularly explosive – that ensures its success. As fans clamber onto mates’ shoulders to get closer to him, McCann slings his guitar strap over his mic stand before swaggering off. He’s getting pretty good at this frontman lark.