Gig review: The Cat Empire @ The Ritz, Manchester – Mancunian Matters

In Interviews, Leeds and Manchester Local News Contributions, Music Reviews on October 25, 2013 at 11:44 am

By Gabriella Swerling

cat emp

The grimy back-streets of Manchester were transformed into the streets of Rio in an underground rave that brought out the snake-hips in everyone last night.

The Ritz – yes, that’s right, that venue oh so famed for its foam parties and freshers’ week snogs – played host to the carnivalesque party-animals, The Cat Empire.

The Aussie cool-cats were back in town to promote their latest album Steal The Light on their biggest international tour yet – playing more than 60 countries and three continents in just four months.

In an explosion of melody, groovy ska blues and humanitarian jazz doctrines, The Cat Empire blasted out their genre-defying fourth album as well as playing crowd-pleasing old favourites such as Two Shoes, The Rhythm and Sly.

Their new album is full of the same emotional range and latino-gypsy-ska as the previous three with the title track Steal The Light, completely stealing the show.

MM managed to grab hold of lead singer Felix Riebl before he headed on stage to perform to thousands of his adoring fans and asked him why he thinks the band have managed to stay around for so long.

He said: “It doesn’t matter what we’re playing as long as people are dancing.”

The Cat Empire are rightly renowned for being a killer live-act. As fun and groovy as it may be to dance to sing their music in your shower or dance to it at a house party, nothing beats seeing them perform.

They really give everything to their crowd, and force you to dance with the sweaty, dreadlocked people around you and just have a good time.

The result is not so much a mosh-pit as a hedonistic rave – a natural high, albeit some of them may be chemical.

A celebration of live music and dance is something that we so rarely appreciate during these times digitalised music.

But this band completely reclaims what is unfortunately proving to be an archaic art, grabs their audience by the ears and forces them to engage with the moment, get sweaty and dance.

Felix ends his set on arguably The Cat Empire’s most-loved song, The Chariot.

The crowd follows his lead, chanting after him:

“Our weapons were our instruments made from timber and steel. We never yielded to conformity but stood like kings, in a chariot that’s riding on a record wheel.”

Felix stops, listens to the crowd singing his song for him, pauses and takes in the chanting, jumping crowd before him under a rainbow of coloured lights.

He says: “I was asked today in an interview why the cat empire has been around so long, this is why.”

This is why The Cat Empire are first and foremost a live act. They exist in the spontaneous, beautiful instant.

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