A Cat Empire show is unlike any other you are likely to see. Not simply a performance; this is an opportunity to see music being newly created right before your eyes. No song is a replica from those on the album rather, a perfectly manipulated and flexible version made specifically for the audience. The final Sydney show of the Rising with the Sun Tour’ at the Enmore Theatre on Saturday solidified their spot at the table of creative royalty.
With their unmistakable blend of jazz, funk and world flavours, The Cat Empire are renowned for their live prowess and did not disappoint at The Enmore Theatre on Saturday
With support act Pierce Brothers taking Australian soul blues to another level and tearing the place to shreds even before the main act came on stage and psychedelic, twirling kaleidoscopes adorning the stage, the evening was sure to be downright fantastic from the start.
As the night ensued, the crowd at the Enmore Theatre was a privy to some of the world’s most talented artists, likely to leave an incredible legacy in jazz and world music, indeed to Australian music. Statuesque throughout, bassist extraordinaire Ryan Monro moved effortlessly between bass guitar and double bass.
And what is a Cat Empire track without its horns? Ross and Kieran of Empire Horns absolutely took it to town, shredding any expectation of what a trombone and trumpet duo could do. Ollie McGill is sure to be remembered alongside greats as one of the world’s best keyboard players.
I later lamented to a friend that what I love about their music is the confident nod to styles from across the world; Latin, Romani, classic funk and old school jazz. The Cat Empire blends these in such an unapologetic way so as to create a sound completely unique and yet still flavoured by Australian tone and idiosyncrasy. If I were to choose a group I feel represents the eclecticism of Australian music, the Cat Empire is at the top of my list.
The Enmore theatre is basically the Mary’s Burgers of venues in my eyes. It is sloped for premium vantage, the floor is pretty solid but still has enough bounce to get everyone dancing and the stage is the perfect height and width to see those great moments at side of stage that you often miss.
Unfortunately for front man Felix Riebl, the tour slammed him with a manic cold and his voice was not so silky, rather an endearing husk permeated the gig, which in my eyes made the show that bit more real and honest. But to see him darting back and forth between the wings, warm liquor in hand to sooth his rasp between songs, was a solid reminder that as much as we place these musicians on a pedestal, they are indeed people who, like athletes, get injured and yet, as their dedication to the audience dictates, the show must go on.
I am also now a huge fan of the all ages gig. Frankly, sometimes kids at music events annoy me. Being a 6-foot lady giant, I often forget that they are there and attempt to move them aside like chairs. But, what changed this for me was to look across the top of everyone (again a slight advantage to being an oversized human) and see a young boy, 7 or 8 bathed in orange light atop his father’s shoulders staring, lost in adoration at Felix and Harry on stage.
To him like, so many of the kids there that evening, The Cat Empire is the CD their parents put on to dance to on the weekends, or in the car on road trips. Those songs are a reminder of home, of their families and their country and will continue be a musical benchmark in years to come. The show on Saturday would have been the first of many for some of those kids and it was an honour to see them introduced to live music by such incredible band.
The evening was a satisfying compendium of tracks from the new album Rising with the Sun including Wolves, Bulls, Midnight, Blasting Away and my personal favourite, Creature. A special rendition of Bataclan cued a time of reflection. Not without favourites Chariot, Two Shoes, The Wine Song and Steal the Light, the set list was a well curated blend of the newly released album but with dutiful attention paid to their esteemed back catalogue.
This was not my first Cat Empire Show and god knows it will not be my last, but the lasting effect of Saturday’s performance left me proud to be a lover of music, of Australia and knowing that I have witnessed some of the world’s most iconic modern performers. Nothing short of brilliant, The Cat Empire never fails to deliver on originality and authenticity, bridging world music with grace and reverence.
Shows to follow include:
Adelaide 26th May – The Barton Theatre
Brisbane 27th, 28th, 29th May – Forum Theatre
Cairns 1st, 2nd, 3rd June – Tanks Arts