Catfish and the Bottlemen
8th May 2019
‘Good evening Manchester Arena!’ cried Van McCann after thundering through the opener ‘Longshot’, the first single from the Welsh four-piece’s latest album The Balance. The singer’s energy created a buzz that reverberated through the arena as 16,000 fans responded with a roaring cheer. People punched the air, catapulted beers and threw inflatable bananas out of pure joy, and it was only three minutes into the concert.
After ‘Longshot’, Catfish and the Bottlemen took the audience on a ride of eighteen of their finest songs in an atmosphere that blended rock concert mosh pits with festival flags and inflatables. A paint bomb was set off at one point, with the plumes of green smoke completing the festival mood. When the chords of fan-favourite Cocoon began ringing out from Johnny Bond’s guitar, it sent the arena into a frenzy. The crowd never stopped bouncing and singing along, encapsulating the electricity of the night.
But the band also showed their softer, more melodic side with their ballad-like ‘Hourglass’. The audience swayed and sung along as McCann occupied the stage with his acoustic guitar. This brought a change of pace and created one of the night’s more special moments. Other highlights included songs ‘7’, ‘Soundcheck’ and ‘Tyrants’, each of which showcased the band’s signature riffs and honest lyrics. The last of these closed the show, and gave each band member an opportunity to solo before a final climactic crescendo.
As fiery as Catfish were throughout the night, some elements dampened their flame. The spotlights were often projected away from the stage and onto the standing crowd, leaving the band and many fans in cold darkness and silence while instruments were switched. This slammed the brakes on the concert and was very jarring. Many fans were visibly confused, thinking this was not part of the script. McCann also left much to be desired in terms of interaction. Little was said beyond unimaginative calls of ‘Thank you Manchester!’, plugs for the latest album and simply naming the next song. It seemed as though Catfish were going through the motions. The crowd were on a rollercoaster, but the band had ridden it a thousand times before.
Van McCann’s energy and cacophonous choruses will nevertheless live long in the memories of those packed into the Manchester Arena. Catfish’s songs were not written for iPods but for arenas, as this concert proved. Even if they tend towards the formulaic, then this is one potent formula that will fire the band through the summer and beyond.