Catfish and the Bottlemen at Exeter Great Hall, 28/10/15

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Exeter Great Hall
28 October 2015

IT is a testament to how far Catfish and the Bottlemen have come as a band that, just two years ago the Welsh quartet played at one of Exeter’s smallest venues, The Cavern, to a crowd of barely 50 hardcore fans. Last month, the band returned to the South West, playing to a sold out audience of over 30 times that amount, and they certainly don’t disappoint.

The atmosphere inside The Great Hall is buzzing ahead of the headline act’s entrance, only buoyed by Alex Turner’s dulcet tones blaring out of the speakers, leading to a large singalong to Arctic Monkey’s ‘Why D’You Only Call Me When You’re High.’ Comparisons with the Sheffield rock n’rollers may be somewhat lazy, but they are also highly accurate. Lead singer Vann McCann may not quite have the lure and swagger of Turner just yet, but strutting confidently onto the stage dressed all in black, you’d be hard pressed to tell the pair apart from a distance.

The band open with their second single ‘Rango’, a slightly odd choice but one that doesn’t appear to bother the exuberant fans down the front. “Abbey she’s got to wait,” whines McCann, “Until she can get you on your own” roar back the adulating crowd. Stepping things up a notch, The Bottlemen launch straight into ‘Pacificer’, a rip roaring indie anthem that sparks a mass mosh-pit and near delirium.

“Hello Exeter!” cries McCann, obviously delighted at the response on what is the first night of a sold out UK tour. The hype surrounding these four young men has at times seemed excessive, but that does little to deter the band’s enthusiasm as they fire off three more tracks in quick succession, culminating in a rousing rendition of ‘26’, a furious paced whirlwind of hormonal passion. The delivery is spot on, with the band having polished and refined their slick brand of indie guitar rock down to a T.

Next up is ‘Business’, a familiar tale of teenage sexual lust that lacks lyrical complexity but is ripe for a good old-fashioned sing along. “If you’ve been having doubts at all…” drawls McCann, “Then you can come and mess my bed up.” It’s hardly reinventing the wheel, but it’s just so darn catchy you can’t quite help but sing along. This is swiftly followed by the Llandudno-based band’s hard hitters, ‘Kathleen’ and ‘Homesick’, before they depart the stage, not 45 minutes after arriving.

The crowd bay for more, and are soon placated by McCann and co. returning to the stage to debut new song ‘7’. McCann stands alone on stage, ditching the guitar, straining his vocal chords to hit the higher notes and make himself heard over a cataclysmic wall of sound from the rest of the band. The set is rounded off with ‘Cocoon’, the unquestionable highlight of debut album The Balcony, and ‘Tyrant’, before the quartet depart the stage with the screams of their fans still echoing throughout the venue.

All in all, this was a triumphant performance from a band high-off the buzz of success, confident in their ability to woo and command an audience. The lack of new material was somewhat disappointing, and many will argue Catfish lack the depth and complexity to truly battle it out with the best British guitar music has to offer. To those individuals, however, I say: “Get off your high horse and have some fucking fun.” The Bottlemen know they can entertain, and entertain they did. A job well done.


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