29.07.2019

Catfish and the Bottlemen have become one of the most emphatic live bands on the circuit

1 / 4
Words by Priya Francis
Photos by BandAnna Photography

The English band confirm their status as an ‘arena band’ for a loving Melbourne audience.

It seems like Catfish and the Bottlemen have been on the road since their inception. The band are constantly touring and recording new albums, so the excitement amongst the crowds heading into Margaret Court Arena was palpable.

Adelaide ‘dirty-pop’ two-piece Fyre Byrd opened for the English band, doing their best to impress the impatient crowd. Vocalist/guitarist Josh Samtre managed to get the crowd into a chant for their final song ‘I Wanna Feel Good, before letting drummer Daniella Breeze take centre stage to stand on her kick drum and beat the skin with her sticks. Their energetic performance warranted a round of applause from the audience, but the underlying anticipation for Catfish to finally get on stage remained.

When they finally did walk onto the empty stage, the entire arena welcomed them wildly. ‘Longshot’, the first song from their 2019 album The Balance kicked off the show and right off the bat celebrated frontman, Van McCann had complete control over the raucous mosh pit before him, lunging and quick-stepping across the stage.

The band did their best to give the audience everything they’d come for, and then some. The setlist included songs from their most recent album, as well as songs dating back to their 2014 debut album, The Balcony. When the first few lines of ‘Soundcheck’ rang out the audience went insane, and the energy only continued. By this stage, everyone who was previously sitting beforehand was up out of their seat by the second song, and McCann demanded attention from all corners of Margaret Court.

It felt like every single song was a favourite, and not one went by without a loud singalong from the audience or a death pit in the mosh. ‘Twice’ gave way for drummer Bob Hall to produce one of the best live drum solos Margaret Court Arena has possibly ever seen. Just when everyone thought he’d hit a threshold he somehow managed to vamp it up again and kept the audience thoroughly impressed, evident by the row of guys in front of me continuously whacking each other in the arm throughout his performance.

The entire gig was filled to the brim with a level of ambience and sound that only Catfish and the Bottlemen could deliver, and their dedicated fans were more than happier to be on the receiving end of such a great live show. It was difficult to stop watching Van as he moved around the stage, swinging the mic stand and balancing it against his cheek as he sang. 

While the level of energy from the band was enough to keep everyone thoroughly entertained for the duration of each song, there were short moments of stagnant air in between each tune, which only made the audience more and more restless for their old favourites.

When ‘Cocoon’ finally arrived, it did so with an announcement from McCann who was clearly aware of how much they’d kept their audience waiting. I lost track of how many times I spotted security wading through the mosh to pull eager fans off shoulders, but no one seemed to care by the time the hit song was played.

The one-hour set wrapped up with ‘Tyrants’, the last track from The Balcony, and it was a bittersweet ending. The cheering only got louder and louder as their familiar static feedback rang out through the arena while they walked off stage, leaving only The Balance’s glowing toucan sipping from a beer can through a straw up on the screen, and McCann’s lone guitar hanging from his mic stand.

Highlight: Bob Hall’s two-minute drum solo.

Lowlight: The awkward silences in between songs which left people looking around, talking, even sitting down.

Crowd favourite: ‘Cocoon’.