Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen at O2 Guildhall, Southampton

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It is quite remarkable that Catfish and the Bottlemen’s debut album The Balcony was certified gold in the UK only months after it was released in September 2014. What’s even more impressive is that just over a year after their first release, the band embarked on an entirely sold out UK tour, which included two nights at Brixton’s O2 Academy. Playing the final date of their 12-leg tour at Southampton’s Guildhall, The Edge went along to see what went down.

Starting off the evening were New York rock and roll two-piece The London Souls, proving that two is quite enough to make one hell of a racket – and a good racket, too. Fusing complex funk rhythms with hard rock guitar and passionate soul vocals, the band’s set was wickedly frenetic and hard-hitting. It’s just a shame that all this was rather lost on the audience, whose enthusiasm was clearly being conserved for Catfish and the Bottlemen.

And when the Llandudno four-piece finally took to the stage, things really did kick off. Set-opener ‘Rango’ saw arms, beer cans, working-week stresses and goodness knows what else thrown into the air with complete reckless abandon. Launching straight into the roof-raising ‘Pacifier’, the band’s energy and charisma was infectious, setting the Guildhall alight. Catfish and the Bottlemen’s music might not be ground-breaking, but there’s no denying the band’s ability to create a spectacular atmosphere in which even the casual listener can’t help but get caught up in the moment.

From start to finish, Catfish and the Bottlemen performed with the confidence and ease of a band far beyond their years. Frontman Van McCann commanded sing-along after sing-along, from the effortless ‘Fallout’ to the explosive ‘Kathleen’. ‘Hourglass’ brings the tempo down a lick, but is by no means lacking in intensity, with most of the crowd taking to each other’s shoulders and belting out the lyrics louder than the frontman himself.

With a soaring rendition of ‘Cocoon’, followed by a skyward-climbing, ever building ‘Tyrants’, Catfish and the Bottlemen’s set was over all too soon – and that was really their only downfall. Judging by the band’s success so far, however, it surely can’t be long until they’re armed with more material and ready to take on even bigger things.

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Final year English Literature student. Often found making lots of noise behind a drum kit. Also a writer of album & live reviews, features and news articles.

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