Gig Review by Simon Saynor with Photography by Bianca Barrett

Catfish and the Bottlemen

So even though it’s the biggest venue in my home town (4000 capacity give or take) I’m not a huge fan of The Dome. It just seems the wrong shape and bands have often struggled with the sound there. It is after all a sports hall. I’ve seen Weller, Manics, Levellers, Faithless and The Beautiful South struggle there. The only band I’ve seen really nail it have been Kasabian. So given this was also my first time seeing Catfish and the Bottlemen stepping up to a larger room it promised to be an interesting evening.

Catfish and the Bottlemen

Last time they played Donny was at The Leopard to about 120 people. A venue proudly part of ‘The Toilet Circuit’. I say that as a compliment. I love seeing a band in that environment. The first noticeable thing is the Catfish fan base. Whereas before it seemed to be a room full of musos aged 30 and over this time the average age is well below the 20 mark. Are Catfish just the latest trend then? Well given the whole crowd was word perfect to every song including tracks from soon to be released new album The Ride I’d say they’ve proved they’re the real deal.

Catfish and the Bottlemen

Of course at the intimate gigs a couple of years ago we all said oh they’ll be huge, destined for arenas, mark my words. The kinda thing old musos say for any new band with that certain something. Sadly most never quite make that step but CATB seem to have done it with ease. The years of hard work mastering their stagecraft and attempting to blow the roof off every small venue they’ve played has paid off.

Catfish and the Bottlemen

Catfish and the Bottlemen

The band play with a swagger, almost arrogance. Lead singer Van McCann has had the arrogance accusations flung his way for some time now. But I like my rock stars with that touch of arrogance. It’s almost a necessity. The only caveat being you have to back that arrogance up. Van, and the band, do that and more. Similar to Luke Spiller from The Struts, he was born to do this.

Catfish and the Bottlemen

They come on to a lightning storm whilst McCartney’s oft forgot about rock voice belts out Helter Skelter. A brave move. It works. Straight into Homesick and The Dome is already a teenage moshpit. The crowd’s collective voice drowning out Van for most of the song.

Catfish and the Bottlemen

It’s a neckbreaking set of swirling guitars and swirling lights. The crowd are with them all the way, so much so that Van often offers up the vocal duties to them and they never let him down.

Catfish and the Bottlemen

Catfish and the Bottlemen

Soundcheck, the lead single from the new album is squeezed between old favourites (seems to odd to call tunes I’ve only known for just over 2 years old favourites) Kathleen, Pacifier and Sidewinder. But the new songs show a slightly darker edge to those early EPs and debut album The Balcony. Van showing some unexpected maturity in his songwriting. Between songs Van checks if the crowd are still with him. Of course they are. It’s a joyous sweaty mess.

Catfish and the Bottlemen

Two highlights for me were Hourglass. Just Van, his guitar and a choir of 4000 young voices and set closer Tyrants. A blitz of feedback and thrashing that the band say goodbye with. No encores. I like that. The whole encore thing has become such a cliché. Just beat the crowd into submission then leave them wanting more. Perfect.

Catfish and the Bottlemen

My friend leaned over between songs and asked if they’d outdone Kasabian for best-Dome-gig-ever. Given we’re only 3 months on from their Best Newcomer Brit and Kasabian are seasoned pros you’d have to say yes. I was worn out just from watching. I played the part of casual observer hoping I looked like an old sage, and not an old fart. Yes part of me (the muso snob) wished I was watching them in a 200 cap venue, part of me wished I was 17 again and leaping around front and centre but most of me just enjoyed seeing a band make that step up and make it so well.

Catfish and the Bottlemen

Destined for arenas these boys.

Catfish and the Bottlemen

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