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Issue 1084

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The Cat Empire: O2 Empire, Shepherdâs Bush 20/10/11

The Cat Empire: O2 Empire, Shepherd's Bush 20-10-2011
The Cat Empire: O2 Empire, Shepherd's Bush 20-10-2011 The Cat Empire: O2 Empire, Shepherd's Bush 20-10-2011 The Cat Empire: O2 Empire, Shepherd's Bush 20-10-2011 The Cat Empire: O2 Empire, Shepherd's Bush 20-10-2011

The Cat Empire and the Shepherds Bush Empire. Two Empires together - Like Peaches & Cream, Love & Marriage or Apples & Pears, rarely have I seen a combination that goes so deliciously well together. This is a group and a performance worthy of this venerable music establishment. Indeed, as Felix Riebl, one of the lead vocalist said, they love playing here because of the relative large capacity but it still feels intimate, which is no doubt why they come back year after year. Well, intimate the venue may be but the group and the crowd turned this place into one hour and a half long party.

But the Cat Empire have plenty to celebrate. They are an Aussie, Melbourne based band who have been together for the past decade. They have achieved commercial success in their own country and have notched up a considerable cult following not only in the UK but also in Europe for their unique fusion blend of Ska, soft reggae, latin and rock with heavy dollops of brass. Playing the London leg of their UK and European 10th anniversary tour, it would be safe to say they lifted the roof off Shepherdâs Bush with another brass heavy act The Eagle and The Worm (also from Melbourne) ably providing the warm-up support.

Starting with the very up-tempo âFishiesâ from their 4th album they were already setting the tone of a concert that was to be filled with jaw dropping solos, especially from the trumpets and piano. This particular number was replete with catchy latinesque trumpet melodies, juxtaposed with Rieblâs seductive Aussie accent and lyrics; and a mini jazz piano section, all of which made for a great opening. They followed this immediately with the title track from the 2007 album âSo Many Nightsâ, a song with a touch of honky-tonk about it.

At this point singer Riebl mentioned the band had been together 10 year, which provoked an impromptu singing of Happy Birthday by the crowd and stopped the band in its tracks for moment. He was cleared chuffed but jokingly reminder the audience that it was an anniversary not a birthday.

The gig continued a lively pace with cheeky rap number âHello Helloâ that invoked for me a sunny summer party. A high point was certainly the groupâs most well know song â the spiritual âTwo Shoesâ, in effect a spiritual ode to Bob Marley and those embracing a freer alternative lifestyle. The crowd loved this and there was dancing on mass. Other notable tunes included âThe Rhythm,â which contained groovy flamenco melodies with trumpet solos. A brilliant section interplay between Jamship Khadiwalaâs seamless scratching and Harry James Angusâs scatting that left me breathless - as did the reflective, melancholic sound of âMiserere."

The show concluded on an up-tempo note with âSlyâ and the eclectic mad âWine Songâ and alternating a 3 time waltz rhythm with Balkan melodies. In fact, you could have imagined yourself at a Greek wedding and judging by the insane mosh pit down on ground level, there were some people who probably thought they were.

The Cat Empire without a doubt lit up Shepherdâs Bush Empire and in the end had the crowd on the every level of the venue on their feet to the extent that you could feel the balconies vibrate. This gig was an absolute triumph. May they continue another 10 years!
Words DARREN LEWIS

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