The first weekend of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival is here and we are treated to the incredible Cat Empire at the Festival Theatre. The Cat Empire have played Adelaide many many times but this is the first time they have done a sit-down gig. They are an inspired choice for the festival and tonight they did not disappoint the varied crowd. They had just been to SA appearing at the Generations in Jazz concerts in early May in Mount Gambier and I was glad they came back again so soon.
They started with the upbeat Brighter Than Gold from their Steal the Light album from 2013 and proceeded to play songs from most of their albums for the next 90 minutes.
They played Fishies which has been a live favourite of theirs for many years and they mentioned how many times they have played at festivals in Adelaide. My regret was not seeing them the first time they played in Adelaide where they had a week-long late night residency at the Spiegeltent for the Adelaide Fringe in 2002. I often wonder what those shows were like.
To inject some more Cabaret into the performance tonight we had 4 special guest artists with them on stage for 4 songs tonight. During Fishies we had a burlesque dancer. For Wolves, we had a Hula Hooper. For Two Shoes we had a hat juggler and for In My Pocket, we had an incredible balancing contortionist called Captain Frodo. For the most part, their performances matched the songs well but I thought they were a little distracting. Special mention must go to front man Felix’s professionalism during Wolves where he indicated to the band to extend the end of the song so the Hula Hooper could finish her act as the song ended.
The first hi-light was an extended How to Explain where co-lead singer/trumpet player Harry James Angus played sparring brass with Roscoe also on trumpet and Kieran on trombone. For an extended period, they would take turns playing mini-solos on the central microphone and then later in the song we had incredible solos by Ollie on keyboards and Will on drums. The applause after this song was ecstatic.
Felix discussed that a nightmare he had was playing a Cat Empire show to a seated audience which was ironic as for most of the show we were all sitting. He then told us that the song Bulls was based on a dream he had where a Bedouin straddling a bomb was telling him that “the bomb was a rhythm”
I was so happy when I heard the start of The Darkness late in the set that I had goosebumps. This is my favourite song of theirs and I love the middle eastern rhythms and the way it builds and builds.
The Festival Theatre is a world-class venue and I have never heard the band sound better. Tonight was their last show in Australia until September. They are headed off to Europe for dates at the end of June and July. I think it is such a privilege to see this awe-inspiring joyous band and I highly recommend them to everyone.
The set ended with The Chariot with the audience up and dancing and all the cabaret artists returned to the stage to help send off the band with this popular song.
After rapturous applause, the band returned to the stage and Felix stated that they had just finished their new album and that it was possible that they retiring some songs from their set. They finished with the popular Hello and as I left the auditorium I wondered if that was the last time I would hear that wonderful tune from their first album.
Adelaide Cabaret Festival Review by Richard De Pizzol