On a warm evening in early May, British rock outfit Catfish and the Bottlemen took to Montreal’s Corona Theatre. Lead singer Van McCan started the band in 2007, eventually adding members Benji Blakeway, Robert “Slideshow Bob” Hall, and Bondy to the lineup, and ultimately scoring a deal with Communion.
Wednesday’s crowd was invigorated, eagerly awaiting the Catfish’s arrival after energetic but generic openers The Worn Flints. Oldies played until the theatre went black, and the band appeared against green lights blazing across the stage while Bondy kicked off with a swift guitar rhythm. McCan’s vocals soared through the chorus, shouting “I’m only looking out for you/You say it’s obvious that’s a lie.”
Their lyrics ponder nothing but the triumphs and troubles of sex and romance, and the added difficulties that touring present for such areas of life. They raced through their setlist, performing The Balcony’s lead single “Kathleen” to the crowd’s enthusiastic response, followed by “Soundcheck” from their second album The Ride. The lights switched from green to red as Van welcomed Montreal fans to their show, encouraging the crowd to dance and keep the energy alive. “Anything” came in the middle of the set, combining a rhythmically slow but steady verse and a chorus that erupts with youthful fervor and devotion. Van sang, “I won’t smoke if you don’t know more/Cause I know you hate the taste of it/I don’t wanna picture our first born/If you stopped discussing names with me/But if it means that we’d get through/Then you know I’m up for anything.”
Catfish’s next highlight was “Fallout,” a song with vigorous, danceable music but lyrics that convey a toxic, disappointing masculine subjectivity. McCan deflects responsibility in what sounds like a faltering relationship, reciting “I’m sorry if I drove your matches to my clothes/But you know how I can get sometimes/See I was a test-tube baby/That’s why nobody gets me.”
The set slowed down for a moment before the encore as McCan appeared alone with a guitar to perform “Hourglass,” a sweet acoustic love song. Catfish usually does not include this number on their set list, so the crowd relished in the treat by singing along and rewarding McCan with loud rounds of applause afterwards.
Next came “7,” which begins with lyrics “Larry, call a lot of smoke in/I wanna lose a couple days.” The song resonated with the crowd: cheers emerged in moments of quiet, and people danced like they had not earlier in the set. Catfish finished their hour-long with “Tyrants,” a track from their debut album full of loud guitars and plenty of classic rock riffs.
Overall, Catfish and the Bottlemen brought immense energy and excitement with their performance. The songs were fun and upbeat, but usually followed a similar form that detracted from the band’s freshness and originality. Nevertheless, they brought an entertaining, cool set that harkened back to a traditional rock feel that left the crowd dancing and smiling throughout their performance.
– Review by Caroline Macari