Catfish and The Bottlemen returned to Manchester last week for the first time since headlining Sound of the City to 8,000 people at Castlefield Bowl back in July. This time they played three back to back shows at Victoria Warehouse to a total of 15,000 people, an impressive step up in such a short space of time. The dates are part of the UK leg of their ‘The Ride Tour’, which will end on November 20th in Dublin, before the four-piece head over to America, some well needed good news for indie fans across the Atlantic.
Supporting Catfish over the three nights were Canadian band, July Talk, who did a fantastic job of warming up a huge crowd, eager with anticipation. Most of the crowd arrived early to attempt to get themselves solid places in the crowd but this never seemed to intimidate the band who are currently touring with their second album Touch. July Talk are also due to return to Manchester in March 2017, where they’ll play the Night and Day Café, so if you fancy a more intimate experience of the indie rock five-piece you know where to head.
Catfish excel at their live shows and their multiple dates at Victoria Warehouse were no exception. Lead singer Van McCann holds his audience in the palm of his hand from the moment his band walk on stage. This is a group that are adored by their devout fan base and the four-piece clearly appreciate the support, with Van taking a number of opportunities to thank the crowd for coming out. McCann is is a frontman who makes involving the entirety of a crowd seem easy and it often feels as if his audience is simply an extension of himself. Catfish and the Bottlemen seem to genuinely love being on stage and this only aids the atmosphere at their live shows, as both the band and the crowd feed off each other’s enthusiasm. The sense of community created by live music is one of the key reasons it still exists at this kind of scale, with Catfish expertly displaying it in its refined form.
There’s little to no lull from the start of Catfish’s set right through to their grand finale. It’s a performance most other bands would watch with envy, even those with much larger back catalogs of tracks to choose from. One surprising omission is Sidewinder, a brilliant song perfectly suited for anthem crowd based chanting. It doesn’t ruin the night’s proceedings, and in fact, virtually any track that Catfish could choose to include to add to their performance would be sure to go down well with an audience of such dedicated and energetic Mancunians. One criticism would be that the band played an identical setlist over their three nights at Victoria Warehouse. It’s a setlist that’s well worth seeing multiple times, but it would have been nice for them to add some variety to their proceedings in Manchester, especially with so many dates at a single venue.
They open the night with Homesick, a strong track from their debut The Balcony featuring a fine picked opening guitar riff and clear vocals. A perfect way to warm up 18,000 voices in preparation for the rest of the night. Acoustic track Hourglass makes an appearance at just the right point in the set, giving both the band and the crowd a breather from the onslaught of anthemic numbers, before ending the show in style with 7, arguably their best live song.
Cocoon is a particular crowd favourite and goes down a treat, with the audience’s chants of “fuck it if they talk, fuck it if they try and get to us”, echoing into the night. It has been traditionally used by the band to end their live performances, however it seems with the introduction of their second album The Ride and a brand new live setlist, has pushed the band to mix things up a little and instead bring the night to a close with Tyrants. Although a well-recorded song on their debut album, it’s live counterpart is something particularly special, acting as the quintessential explosive finale that was needed to bring such an impressive night to a final close.
Van has said before that number of album sales the band makes doesn’t motivate him, he’s always just wanted to fill stadiums. While Catfish may not quite be at the stadium level yet, fans should make the most of seeing the Welsh indie rockers at relatively intimate venues like Victoria Warehouse while they still can. Catfish have now repeatedly shown their ability to entertain large crowds and it’s only a matter of time before they’re filling some of the biggest venues in the country.
Catfish have had quite the journey over the last few years and with the SSE Hydro and Wembley arena to follow Manchester, their ride is far from over.