Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen Prove They're A Band Not To Be Missed

By: Mehlika Eski

April 1, 2019

Photo by Leslie Dylan

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The Welsh alt-rock band played their first headlining show in Seattle since 2015 on Tuesday, bringing some new tunes from their third upcoming album.
 

There is just something so incredibly satisfying about finally being able to see a band that you have been following for years. For me, that was what happened with Catfish and The Bottlemen on March 26th.

I managed to get to Showbox SoDo early enough to catch Catfish’s EndSession – and I’m very glad I did. They only played three songs – “Longshot,” “Cocoon,” and “7” – but it was my first taste of what to expect for that night. I had brought a friend with me and he was in awe of just how good they sounded during an acoustic set, which meant we were both in for a treat that night.

Photo by Leslie Dylan

When the lights went down, a narrative began playing over the speakers that was reminiscent of an old show announcer. When the lights came on, flashing red, the vocals of “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles began to ring out as the band came on stage – guitarist/vocalist Van McCann, bassist Benji Blakeway, guitarist Johnny Bond, and drummer Robert “Bob” Hall. They opened their set with “Longshot,” their first single and also the opening track from The Balance. If you’ve heard the song, you’ll know that it starts off with a simple guitar riff and McCann’s vocals, and it builds up from there. What would have been a quiet start to the song became a roar as the crowd sang along, and it was in that moment that I realized that this was how the rest of the show would go: loud, wild, and energetic. I don’t think I was prepared, if I’m being honest.

Photo by Leslie Dylan

Their next song was “Kathleen,” a single from their debut album The Balcony, released in 2014, and another one of my personal favorites. The vibe of the crowd was ridiculously contagious, and it was hard to not want to match that energy; I found myself jumping and singing along with the girls in front of me because it was impossible NOT to. They then played “Soundcheck,” a lively song that starts off with a driving high-hat beat from their 2016 album The Ride. It was then that I realized two things: one, there were little toucans on the front of the guitar amps and speakers, and two, the giant toucan lit up and changed colors. Wild. I really enjoyed that toucan and the vibe it created. The next song was “Pacifier,” also from The Balcony, another song that the crowd went wild to and which included these “woo-oohs” that the everyone sang along to.

They continued to play an incredible set with songs from all three of their albums, including three new songs from the new album – “Sidetrack,” an unreleased song, “Fluctuate,” their latest single, and “2all,” during which McCann did this thing where he would let the microphone lean into him and against his face while he played guitar and sang, which I found interesting and very cool. They also played some old favorites, one of them being “Homesick,” which I lost my absolute mind to, and “Rango,” which has a really intense musical breakdown and guitar solo in the middle of it that was even better live than I thought it would be. “Outside” was given a nice vibe with all of the yellow lights, and “7” was just powerful live with the audience singing almost the entirety of the first chorus.

Photo by Leslie Dylan

But, my favorite moment of the night happened when “Hourglass” was played, a lovely little acoustic song off of The Balcony. McCann came out with just an acoustic guitar; the only lights shining on the stage were these clean, bright white ones, and he began singing and playing through the song. When he got to the chorus, he stopped singing and playing and gave the crowd complete control of the song. And I swear, we sang and filled up every bit of space possible with our voices. McCann joined back in and finished the song, but at the end, he let the audience finish out the rest of it, waving his arm in the air and encouraging more from us, and by the end, everyone was screaming the words at the top of their lungs. It was such a beautiful scene and probably one of my favorite moments of any show that I’ve attended.

Photo by Leslie Dylan

I don’t think any members of the band missed a single note, that’s how good they were. I can’t properly express just how happy I am to have finally been able to see these guys in action. If you haven’t given them a listen yet, I highly suggest doing so, and if you like what you hear, try catching them on tour sometime – you might just be as impressed as I was.

Photo by Leslie Dylan

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