Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen at KOKO, Camden (7/11/2014)

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Four boys from Llandudno (a small town that no one but people from North Wales can pronounce) have taken the world well and truly by storm over the past few months. Otherwise known as Catfish and the Bottlemen, these boys have fast become the soundtrack to my year and I urge anyone who has somehow escaped hearing about them to rectify this immediately.

I have been lucky enough to have gone to a vast number of gigs over the years and I have seen a whole variety of different acts; however November 7th 2014 marked a) my first concert at my now favourite venue, KOKO in Camden and b) the best live performance I have ever seen.

Southern, unusually the first and only support act, had an amazing male vocal provided by Tom Southern, one third of the brother and sister act. Despite this promising strong lead it just did not seem to match the rest of the band’s vibe: the lead guitarist and support vocalist, Lucy Southern, is a gorgeous cross between Taylor Swift and Taylor Momsen and the drummer Eoghan Clifford is incredibly talented in his own right, however they just appeared an odd mix that didn’t quite fit. They did manage to get the crowd going, although many fans had been waiting several hours since the doors had opened for Catfish’s appearance and thus by the time Southern’s set finished it did not take much for the crowd to start screaming.

When Catfish and the Bottlemen finally appeared they did not disappoint: they came out to the dramatic theme tune from Pirates of the Caribbean with style and charisma – two things that practically drip from lead singer Van McCan. With their symbolic drum kit adorned with Ewan McGregor’s beaming face as their back drop, they exploded straight into single ‘Rango’, and from this point it was clear the sold-out show was going to be phenomenal. Only metres from the front the screams were deafening: the crowd simply could not contain their excitement and pure joy at seeing this band. McCan continued to play to his adoring audience throughout the evening, constantly singing snippets from other songs such as ‘I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked’, in his husky rock star voice – making the girls especially, go crazy.

By the time the boys got around to playing ‘Hourglass’ the atmosphere in the building was quite literally electric. Everyone stopped dead still and basked in McCan’s voice; every single word rang out effortlessly and was repeated by almost the whole audience. At the end of what I think is the best song on the album (save for ‘Business’) McCan joked he was out of a job as this was by no means the only time that the hundreds of voices had sung along with him that evening.

At the end of the gig, McCan gave a huge thank you speech to everybody involved with the tour and the album, even down to their label and the music technicians. I think this shows just how far the boys have come and that they appreciate how much it has taken for them to get to where they are now: with a completely sold out UK tour, a European tour and an already almost sold out UK tour scheduled for early next year. McCan then meekly asked the security if he could invite people to crowd surf and with conformation a wave of fans experienced one of the best moments of their lives to the closing rifts of the electric ‘Tyrants’ which McCan wrote when he was just 14. The wide range of age demographic of the audience also emphasises their mass appeal: the majority of the crowd was made up of screaming teenage girls, myself included, and drunk ‘moshing’ middle aged men who looked like they had stumbled in from a football game. No band deserves this success as much as these guys, and the fact they do it so humbly with devotion that could rival their fans’ is extra impressive.

Limited tickets are still available for Catfish and the Bottlemen’s tour in early spring next year. 

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