Catfish and the Bottlemen have been an unexpected success story of 2015, battling against the tide of modern music and filling a much needed void for indie rock fans. The band write the kind of anthemic rock that has earned them a place in the hearts of a new generation of indie lovers and while they have only released one album so far, The Balcony, they have managed to sell out every date on this tour; it’s safe to say that expectation levels for this gig are high.
With a pre-gig playlist featuring the likes of the Strokes and Arctic Monkeys, it is clear that Catfish and the Bottlemen want to follow their noughties’ heroes into indie rock folklore. With the crowd suitably charged following a good number of singalongs, the band receive a euphoric reception when they walk on stage. However, before launching into Rango, frontman Van McCann tells them that his voice isn’t in great shape so he will need to rely on them throughout the night; he quickly realises though that this will not be an issue as they belt out every word to every song.
The pace of the gig doesn’t let up for most of the night, as the band batter through the entirety of The Balcony. Pacifier provides an early highlight with its driving guitar riff and upbeat tempo, in spite of its darker lyrics, ‘You just don’t know what it feels like to lose.’ It builds up to a huge guitar-led climax and the Corn Exchange descends into chaos.
Van McCann is a likeable frontman, always sincere in his many “thankyous” and working the crowd well, often letting them take over on the big choruses. Admittedly, his lyrics are uncomplicated, often addressing his teenage struggles and relationships, but he sings with such passion that you can’t help but believe every word: ‘I’m a test tube baby, that’s why nobody gets me.’ His ability to find a good melody and a chant-worthy chorus is unquestionable though; Catfish and the Bottlemen seem to have catchy guitar hooks to spare left, right and centre on songs such as Fallout and Homesick. However, while their songs are filled with choruses made for stadium singalongs, it is clear from the reaction tonight that they have mastered the ability to connect with an audience.
Following some much needed respite with the acoustic Hourglass, they introduce a new song called 7. Never known for being overly modest in interviews, Van McCann has been talking up the new album for a while now, recently telling NME that it’s going to “set a little bomb off in the industry.” It is a lot moodier than previous material, with a loose verse which builds up to a loud, stomping chorus. Van McCann’s voice has never sounded so gravelly, while the heavy use of reverb gives it a different feel.
The gig comes to an end with fan favourite Cocoon and the epic Tyrants. It is even more spectacular live than on record, with its thrashing guitars effectively contrasting with a softer riff at points. It builds in intensity up until a final crescendo when the song dramatically cuts out, leaving the audience craving more.
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