Image Credit: CATFISH + THE BOTTLEMEN by Jill Furmanovsky April 2016
Catfish and the Bottlemen aren’t my favourite band. This may seem like a strange statement to start with, but whilst I love listening to their music, I don’t think they’re a band that is revolutionising the music industry by any stretch. I’ll play their music often, but despite a few stand-out songs, their music as a whole is all a bit “samey”. Since their debut album The Balcony in 2014 they have gone on to release The Ride (2016) and recently The Balance, the album for which they are currently touring. However, I would say that each song could be taken from any album as they all sound sort of the same? I always tell people that “I really like Catfish, and I know all the words to their songs, but if you named one I couldn’t start singing it until it started playing as they are all so similar”.
In light of the above it may seem questionable as to why I bought tickets to see them in the first place, but although the songs are samey, that doesn’t mean they aren’t good, and after seeing them live at Leeds First Direct Arena I can undoubtedly confirm that live they are a whole lot better. Building the audience’s suspense with the opening of The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’,Catfish and the Bottlemen took to the stage with an immense amount of energy that never faltered throughout the whole night. Setting things off with ‘Longshot’, their latest hit single, instantly set the tone for a night of great live music. Not bothering with any backing videos or stage gimmicks, only using basic coloured lighting the focus was on the music and banging out as many tunes as possible in the hour and a half set time. Covering a range of tracks from their trio of records, every song was insane live – full of energy, grit and genuine love for music. Lead singer Van McCann delivered sound vocals throughout, never allowing the drums and guitars to drown him out. The extended instrumental bridges on ‘Outside and ‘Anything’ seemed off-the-cuff, yet tight and dynamic. The band played as a solid unit, all contributing equally to the performance, as opposed to the frontman taking all the credit.
Between each song the arena went black, whilst this allowed suspense to build for the next song, occasionally this pause seemed a bit too long, and instead of building the crowd’s energy up, deflated it slightly, meaning they had to work to get it back as soon as the next song began. There was also no comradery between the band and the audience with McCann only saying a quick hello, introducing the band (why do bands do this, it’s not as if you don’t know who you have paid to see?) and asking the classic “how we doing tonight Leeds?”. Whilst it would have been nice to perhaps have a bit more conversation, I will forgive him, for if the amount of sweat dripping off him is anything to go by he gave the performance 110%.
To anyone considering seeing Catfish live I would say absolutely go, they are undoubtedly better live than on record and their whole show serves as a great reminder to the roots of live music, a whole night banging out track after track as if they were still practising in their garage. It was a night filled with proper indie rock and if their set proved anything, it is that they fully deserve to be one of the main bands on the indie scene in 2019.