Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Cat Empire at the Metro Theatre, 1 March 2013

I love sad music. Always have, always will. Give me a voice full of sorrow, a haunting melody and mournful lyrics any day. One of my favourite bands is still The Smiths, for God's sake.
But this clearly isn't going to be one of these days. The first person I notice on stage this Friday night is a young lady in a purple sequin dress and a huge flower headpiece (this is called a fascinator, I think, and how pleasing it is to have such a fitting word for it). The lady in question is smiling sweetly and playing banjo. Barefoot. She is part of a band called Flap! from Melbourne, and they are here to set the tone for a night of singing, dancing and general cheerfulness.

If there is any music that is just meant to be played live, it is that of The Cat Empire. This eight-piece band oozes energy out of every pore from the first moment they come on stage. I'm here with a bunch of friends, and when trumpeter and amazing vocalist Harry Angus plays the first tunes of How to Explain, we are well and truly ready, with a pair of knees to spring and a pair of lungs to sing...

The evening has a lovely, organic flow to it: The playlist is a satisfying mix of old songs and material from their new album that is due for release in May. Everything fits nicely together - all the songs are utterly danceable, or at least jump-up-and-downable, which is all I manage, squeezed in as I am among a very enthusiastic crowd. Harry Angus shares the front man role with the very handsome and very charming singer and percussionist Felix Riebl. One girl even throws her bra onto the stage, which seems to unsettle the poor drummer entirely, on whose instrument it lands. The girl later meekly (and unsuccessfully) asks to get the offending garment back.

My personal favourite song of the The Cat Empire is The Wine Song. It is introduced by a brilliant keyboard solo by the highly talented Ollie McGill, who very much reminds me of Schroeder from the Peanuts. This song is everything that the band does so well: simple lyrics that you can relate to, a rousing chorus that you just can't help singing at the top of your lungs and an irresistible rhythm that just makes you want to shake those hips.

The music of The Cat Empire defies labelling - it's a mixture of jazz, reggae, latin, hip hop and everything in between. It is, in short, one loud and joyful invitation to party. My taste for sad music will just have to wait until the next concert...