Occasionally a band comes along that feel like family. Their music feels like home, their interviews always warm, and their gigs like a house party. Thursday night’s Thebarton Theatre gig was no different, except it was better than ever.
Sahara Beck opened for the band who have recently come back from tour dates overseas. She provided a fitting support, playing a range of upbeat, contagious tunes backed by a tight, talented band. Her voice is strong and expressive, and her stage presence is exciting and bursting with charisma. A highlight was her closing song: a super fun rendition of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name Of’.
By the time The Cat Empire had taken the stage, both levels of the Thebarton Theatre were jam packed. The crowd was diverse, with kids as young as five and fans a lot older than that ready to party. Opening with ‘Run Like Wolves’ from the new album Rising With The Sun, it didn’t take long before the whole theatre were swaying.
Playing a range of songs from their impressive career spanning more than a decade, complete with a lengthy solo from each of the musicians, the energy was high and, as stated earlier, like a house party.
There were too many highlights to mention, but a standout moment would have been ‘Bataclan’, a tribute to the recent terrorist attack at the Parisian live music venue. As Felix sang, ‘Tonight we’ll beat the drums/Louder than our pain/And call their names when the evening comes’, the audience’s voices lifted in solidarity. It was spine-chillingly beautiful.
Closing with ‘All Night Loud’, Felix acknowledged the kids in the crowd and paid tribute to them, demonstrating that The Cat Empire is for everyone. So, to the woman in the crowd who rudely and very audibly sniped, ‘Who the f**k brings kids to a gig?’, my six year old step-daughter knew every lyric to every song. Did you?
After a keyboard solo, the band came back on stage and erupted into ‘The Wine Song’, which was probably the coolest thing one could witness from the balcony. A group of people started dancing in a circle, with others joining in, making a crowd whirlpool of joyous, dancing, beautiful, happy people.
‘The Chariot’ closed the night beautifully and everyone went home elated and inspired. Recently, in an interview with us, Felix reflected on his feelings about the Thebarton Theatre.
“I love the Thebby,” he said. “It’s a great old music hall. It evokes that feeling of nostalgia. You can imagine all the bands who have played in there, all the different things that have happened”.
“The Thebby is like part scout hall, part concert hall. It’s an exciting stage to be side stage at. A lot of venues are judged by that moment between backstage and being on stage. It’s that moment that precipitates the night in many ways; it’s the one time you’ve got to be with yourself before you’re with many, many different faces. The Thebby’s got a really nice walkway from backstage to the stage.
“Strangely, the reason I do what I do is to have moments like that, both side stage and on stage. The view of being involved in music and seeing many faces in front of you, as well as brief moments of real privacy, that triangle of elements creates the closest thing to a dream that you can get while you’re not sleeping. I’m not talking about a dream, like a goal in life. I’m talking about an actual dream. It becomes a subtle and profound moment in your life that continues. I don’t often remember shows, I remember them when I’m back on stage again. That’s what makes it so appealing and why performers keep coming back to that place; they want to remember that dream again.”
I didn’t really understand what he meant until I saw him perform on Thursday night. The Cat Empire were born to entertain and they have a passionate love affair with music that is as contagious and arousing as their sound.
What a perfect gig. What a great night.
Reviewed by Libby Parker
Photos by Matthew Trainor