Bear witness, the future of guitar music is here. Or so Steve Lamacq would have you believe. This is Catfish and the Bottlemen and based on tonight’s performance he’s as close to the mark as he has ever been. The Welsh four-piece arrive on stage amid a thunderstorm of strobe lights, dry ice, drama, theatrical music and a heaving adoration from the Academy’s capacity crowd. Within minutes a breakneck version of ‘Rango’ is offed. It might not be the best version of their debut album’s standout track but the energy and intensity with which it is played is relentless and sets a marker which hardly moves throughout the set.
Front man Vann McCann, it must be said, is a star in the ascendancy. His band of elaborately coiffured mates are no slouches – especially drummer “Sideshow” Bob Hall – but McCann has somehow managed to become a heady mix of Bobby Gillespie, Richard Ashcroft and Julian Casablancas. Forgetting how young the band are is easy and only brought into focus when McCann repeatedly thanks the crowd, somehow displaying genuine wonder at how this all happened. This may be the last night of the tour but you would be forgiven for assuming that the band haven’t played to a crowd this wildly boisterous before; with the roadies being called out onto the stage to see for themselves. In fairness to them, it truly is a sight to behold to watch the masses so passionately sing the lyrics to ‘Pacifier’, ‘Sidewinder’, ‘Fallout’ and a stomping version of ’26’ word for word.
As the rowdiness builds and the security guards regret taking the shift the band offer respite as McCann takes hold of ‘Hourglass’ with just his acoustic guitar. It’s the only lull in an otherwise enthralling set, one which will either develop into something else over time or be filed away under ‘Things That Guitar Bands Usually Do During Gigs’. McCann certainly has the ability to hold attention just as much as he can belt out his tunes but all of this for just one song seems a little too arbitrary. But we’re clutching at straws here; this was a fast paced and utterly gripping set with no sense of a band finding their feet. Based on tonight’s performance, in front of their family and friends, Catfish and the Bottlemen are on to bigger and better things. They are not only electrifying band with quality in spades, they are the real deal.
Photo by Zak Marco, taken from the band’s official website.