The Cat Empire @ The Tivoli, Brisbane (28/08/2010)
Since day one Melbourne’s The Cat Empire created a literal empire of fans on the back of faultlessly entertaining live performances. Personally, I’ve never been more than a willing listener to their recorded works, but a handful of times now I’ve been consistently blown away by the unabashed fun of the Empire’s live show and tonight is to be no different.
The Cat Empire is obviously conscious of maintaining an ever-changing atmosphere at their shows and the selection of the second support is as interesting as it is entertaining. I feel secure in proclaiming that Clairy Brown and The Bangin’ Rackettes is like nothing you’ve ever seen in the flesh. Think Amy Winehouse without the visible track marks meets The Pointer Sisters meets The Supremes. Think the house band at Tony Montoya’s favorite cigar bar during the sixties. Think sexy, saucy and completely groovable Motown rock ‘n’ roll. Five tracks in and the crowd appears to have recovered from the shock of bee-hives, synchronised arm movements and tasselled, elbow-length satin gloves and are finally starting to get it. Brown’s big, soulful voice is framed by a nostalgic husk and easily claims all ears. The set closes to rapturous applause and a host of strongly formulating opinions.
The Tivoli must be close to capacity when the familiar faces of Ollie, Harry and Felix humbly take the stage. Seemingly unaware of the collective shit-losing going on in front of them, the eight-piece musical míªlée starts swinging. With The Cat Empire, appreciation is done on the move and moving is done constantly. As the temperature climbs swiftly through steamy to sticky and approaches sweaty, the boys start to indulge. Unlike many bands, indulgence doesn’t come in the form of hogging the spotlight, but sharing it.
As Harry Angus and Felix Riebl withdraw to the wings the mutual respect amongst the band is enviable – each member is clearly a master of his craft and as the flawlessly funky latin-infused jazz continues, solos are shared and unlike like most, these don’t feel contrived nor forced.
It’s Angus’ time in the spotlight though that takes the cake. The trumpet spraying co-frontman is also a vocal gymnast. His piercing falsetto is a regular feature but when letting lose he scats, raps and steals the breath from your lungs with soaring, swirling and undeniably moving middle-eastern meditative chants.
All five albums are visited during a set that, to the bands credit, doesn’t include that first single. Days Like These, Sly, The Chariot, Fishies, Two Shoes and Cinema ’s most recent single Feeling’s Gone are clear standouts in a bunch that really contains no low-lights.
The Cat Empire achieved a whole lot in a short time, and so predictably certain members have seen moments of complacency – even disinterest – but to the clear relief of a packed Tivoli Theatre, the boys have found the second (perhaps fifth) wind, released a critically adored new album and definitely still command a crowd like few Australian bands on the circuit. If you haven’t seen them, do it. If you have, you could do far worse than to see them again.