Words by Bradley Goodwin
Glowing review of Catfish and the Bottlemen live. After releasing new singles, announcing a new album and tour what can’t this band do?
2019 is shaping up to be a stirring year for fans of Welsh indie-rock outfit Catfish and the Bottlemen. On offer have been tour and festival dates to accompany their first album in 3 years, “The Balance”. One of these dates in the UK took place at London’s SSE Arena, Wembley on Friday 22nd February.
It is perhaps ironic that the performance itself played out as a balance.; A balance mainly between the old and the new. This showed itself from invoking 60’s entertainer spirit with Dean Martin classic “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?” to pre-empt their appearance. All the while manifesting this entertainer spirit in that classic combination expected of the 21st Century indie-rock band: rip-roaring guitar riffs and an accompanying aurora of lights.
The relation of the familiar and the current was highlighted throughout the setlist itself too. Fans expecting the band’s first new material since 2016 were rewarded with the opener, new single “Longshot”. With its’ opening brooding riffs, it was rewarding to hear current material that also maintained the band’s distinctive sound, reminding you of your anticipation to hear the older, familiar material. Another highlight from “The Balance” was “Fluctuate”, delivered with a sharp dose of speedy tempo and electric tone, which created an electric atmosphere in the crowd to match.
The new material was well integrated into the setlist, but the band’s handling of established material proved that familiarity doesn’t breed contempt in connecting with their audience. While riffs and tunes were key to the current material’s live success, the lyrics take glory here. The accessibility of the lyrics rather than their complexity deserves the credit. The sing-along factor was provided by tracks like “Kathleen” and “Homesick”, fan favourites that were well received. There was also room for an intimate connection too, with acoustic ballad “Hourglass” receiving word for word chants across the arena.
All in all, the show rewarded anticipation. With new material impending, you won’t be getting off the ride any time soon.