Catfish and The Bottlemen have been off the road for the whole of 2018 thus far so it was with bated breath that they returned to Newcastle. A homecoming for guitarist, Bondy, and a ten thousand strong crowd were at their helm.
Newcastle’s newest live offering ‘This Is Tomorrow’ kicked off with surprisingly mixed reviews. No one can deny the artists playing delivered, however Gigs North East did far from. The venue, that previously held Evolution Festival, was oversold. By at least 25%. How could you tell? There were two sets of barriers because otherwise the people in the front area would’ve posed a health risk. But security didn’t care about that, by the second song of Catfish’s set I’d hopped the barrier into the first section.
Sam Fender opened up the rainy stage to a small but eager crowd with his cheeky smile and massive tunes. After that came regulars, Little Comets. Having toured with Catfish and the Bottlemen before they made it big, the local lads always have a place on their billing. The band delivered a dose of kitchen sink indie and dancey bops to get the rain soaked crowd moving.
Arthouse rockers and Northumberland lads Everything Everything came next. Despite their different tone to the other bands on the billing they went down a storm playing the likes of ‘No Reptiles’ and ‘Kemosabe’ as well as tracks from their most recent album A Fever Dream.
By the time Catfish and the Bottlemen came on it was getting dark and the crowd grew restless. Hanging back in the further section of the crowd, the band’s entrance was grand but begrudgingly watched on a screen. ‘Homesick’ flew by without a hitch and I even caught myself dancing with strangers during ‘Kathleen’, the same strangers that I then hopped a barrier with at the end of the song.
In the front section of the crowd there was an electricity that couldn’t be denied. By ‘Soundcheck’ Van McCann and co. had settled back into the stage, giving it their all without even breaking a sweat. Catfish have this raw energy that just connects with people, the crowd bounces, moshes, dances, belts out every line with arms open.
Fan favourite ‘Pacifier’ was raucous, between pits and flares there was no shortage support. Even slower songs like ‘Heathrow’ are sensational, strangers wrapping arms around each other for the track. Forgotten gems ‘Business’ and ‘Sidewinder’ returned; a welcome appearance having been nearly altogether scrapped from 2017 setlists.
With a bit of time off naturally came the expectation of new music and Catfish didn’t disappoint. New song titled ‘Fluctuate’ gave the crowd a taste of the band’s third album. As always with Catfish and the Bottlemen, the song is no frills rock and roll. It has a chorus that already feels familiar after the first listen, it’s a warm song. The track appears to be a paean to bittersweet love.
The standard but still impressive ending came soon after with the one-two punch that is ‘Coccoon’ and ‘Tyrants’. Despite the well known story of ‘Tyrants’ being written by a 14 year old Van McCann, it still has the ability to blow people away. The track has sublime lyrics and a visceral soundscape that create something that cannot be properly described. The final lines screamed out over the building guitars, like a battle cry.
Their return has proved that whatever Catfish and the Bottlemen had that made them indie rock heroes; they’ve still got it. Van McCann is still the flame that fuels the band’s live performance. He sways his hips in time to his guitar strums like he’s Mick Jagger. Album three is on the way if ‘Fluctuate’ is anything to go by, it’s sounding pretty fucking sweet.