Review: The Cat Empire at The Enmore Theatre, Sydney, 14 September 2018

Halfway through a sold-out Australian tour, The Cat Empire filled the Enmore Theatre to the brim with a show that sent fans dancing into the weekend with some help from Sydney’s own Odette.

Fresh off her own tour after the release of her debut album To a Stranger, Odette serenaded the audience with her mix of emotive synth-pop and eclectic jazz. Whether it was due the Friday night crowd, or the older audiences simply being unfamiliar with the powerful voice behind ‘Watch Me Read You,’ and her self-confessed “emo song” ‘Lotus Eaters’, the crowd chatted on.

The Cat Empire took to the stage with roaring applause as bright brass filled the theatre. Opening with ‘Ready Now,’ the first track from their upcoming album, it didn’t take long for crowds to be dancing in the aisles. Barely taking time for a breath, frontman Felix Riebllaunched into ‘Sly’ from their 2005 record Two Shoes, and already excited crowds reached a manic pitch, to the point that venue staff begged dancing attendees to return to their seats for their own safety.

Touring for well over a decade, The Cat Empire are no strangers to sold out shows and back to back gigs with a confidence that was clearly on display. Transitioning between dramatic drum solos to a chilling instrumental by keys player Ollie Gill and concluding with Harry James Angus maniacally moved between trumpet and vocals during ‘Daggers Drawn,’ drawing the track out for nearly 10 minutes of stunning musicianship.

Mania turned to reflection as Riebl pointed out a very special member of the audience, Marcus, on a night’s leave from chemotherapy to see his favourite band. Serenaded with the unreleased track ‘Killer,’ featuring an emotive refrain of “all for one, and one for all,” it was a salute to Marcus and his family as audiences cheered on.

Performing from their vast discography, there was a song for fans old and new. Whether it be younger audiences screaming along to ‘Bulls’ or old guard fans raising their two fingers in solidarity with ‘Two Shoes,’ the night was a celebration of almost two decades of music. The legacy continued with another unreleased track, ‘Oscar Wilde,’ enthralling audiences yet again, with their trademark mix of jazz, latin, folk reggae and rock.

Delighting audiences with ‘Still Young’ before returning for a rousing encore, fans sang until the band not only returned but joined in with the audience, mixing in some classic Cat Empire chest thumping and jumping across the stage. The night ended with a return to their first, and arguably most memorable record. ‘Hello’ and ‘The Chariot’ caused a riot of movement in the theatre. The floor shook with the movement of feet shuffling and jumping in time to songs that still hold up almost 15 years on from their release and fit neatly in alongside their newest singles. The Cat Empire didn’t come to the Enmore simply to perform – they came to play, and we were lucky enough to join them.

Music Insight, 2018

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