Gig Review: @TheCatEmpire at @O2InstituteBham 2nd April 2o16 #TheCatEmpire

Black Peaches

Whoever supports The Cat Empire has to be a band with enough colour and vibrancy to get their crowd up and dancing –  basically, to get them in the party mood!

I don’t know who found Black Peaches and hadn’t heard of them before, but it was an inspired choice of support act. The lead singer looked like he was ready for a day at the seaside, and everyone loves a day at the beach, right?!

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They started playing and were immediately impressive – a dignified groove interspersed with shocks of prog rock, complete with two keyboards and at one point a theremin played by the excellent guitarist.

The audience were mostly well into it – it was just a shame about those who chattered throughout the set, for them mostly as they missed a treat!

Sublime bass, bongos and other percussion enhanced the drums throughout. Their set finished with honky tonk sounds on the keys, a flourish which met a sudden end, all of which was met with very approving cheers and applause from those listening. I bet I’m not the only one trying to find out more about this band post-gig!

The Cat Empire

One of the reasons I go to gigs is to find that moment in time where I am so lost in the music and the atmosphere that I forget about the drudgery and stresses of life. It’s a rare occurrence, but every now and again the band and the audience merge into one being and everything outside those four walls ceases to exist. That happened at the O2 Institute, Birmingham when those eminently cheerful Aussies The Cat Empire graced the stage as part of their “Rising With the Sun” tour.

From the very start of the gig, every single person in the place was moving, even if they were seated. The Cat Empire’s music is infectious; it gets into the veins, causes bodies to dance and voices to sing – if this was a disease, it would be the very best kind!

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The horns section is so SO good – bright and beautiful like a chorus of birds on a summer’s day. The three guys prove this during their relay – ever decreasing circles both musically and physically, culminating in a fight for the microphone and a brilliant onslaught of brass!

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The keyboard style of Ollie McGill reminds me of that of Rick Wakeman – psychedelic, man! His solo was absolutely relentless, with a constant beat behind it. He later appeared on stage alone for the encore and went into notes immediately recognisable as the beginnings of The Wine Song. Suffice to say the crowd went wild!

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Felix and Henry were both the life and soul of the party, especially the ever-smiling Felix, who I think wanted to be in the audience as he could see the rapturous looks on their faces. He ensured he made them part of the show by giving them access to his microphone so that they could be the band’s voice for a while.

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Will’s drum solo was like an incoming thunderstorm complete with lightning effect (the lights were superb all night, by the way) – holy shit, that was loud! The master of the decks, Jumps, was on fire too – he had his solo moment of glory, and never before have I been impressed by someone’s ability to scratch records – his hands almost appeared to be invisible they moved so fast!

For the entirety of the night, the crowd seemed to be moving as one, like an ocean wave ebbing and flowing from and to shore. There was a pregnant lady standing next to me, and I have a feeling her baby was enjoying it as much as the rest of us – judging by her facial expressions, I’m sure he or she was joining in on the dancing!

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This gig had its own intricate pattern, constantly and seamlessly changing like a kaleidoscope image, like the ones depicted all evening as part of the stage backdrop. The band merge effortlessly between genres and provide a warm glow comparable only to the best hug of your life.

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I reckon every night’s a party for this band and they don’t need drink or drugs to have their high jinks! The guys were enjoying the simple yet all-encompassing love for music along with their audience. I could feel the joy and love emanating from every breath each individual took. It’s almost like a religion, but so much better – worship of music is something I’d definitely sign up for.

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Rarely have I been so genuinely happy and comfortable on my own at a gig, and also felt free to let go, dance and have much-needed jollity. I didn’t wipe the smile off my face the whole night, and truly was lost in the music, as is my aim.

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It always has a lasting effect when music fills a room so completely, like a heart fills with love in the most romantic of moments. Music is indeed the language of us all.

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