The Cat Empire with Neal Francis at the Commodore Ballroom, 3/17/19
On Sunday, the exuberant stylings of Australian band The Cat Empire were brought to the Commodore Ballroom once more as part of the band’s Stolen Diamonds tour. When we spoke with Felix Reibl – one of the frontmen of the band – last week, he hinted that the show would be as energy-packed as ever.
With an opening set by Neal Francis – a bluesy funk-rock sound coming out of Chicago – the dance floor was primed for a night of movement.
Just after 10 p.m., with the lights dimmed, The Cat Empire came out onstage and the crowd roared raw appreciation.
They got the show started with the aptly-named ‘Ready Now’ from Stolen Diamonds. The audience certainly was. Despite all the gripe Vancouver audiences get over not dancing enough, this audience seemed to forget that brand for a moment, jumping and bopping enthusiastically.
It might have been the St. Patrick’s spirit. A few Irish themed sunglasses and leprechaun-sized top hats were evidenced in the crowd. Reibl at one point donned a green-beaded necklace which one imagines he got from the crowd.
“Is Oscar Wilde Irish?” asked Reibl of the band. “He is,” he decided before leading off into the track titled after the writer, which despite being on the recently released Stolen Diamonds has become an instant classic.
But attributing the energy of the night to the drink-fest of St. Patrick’s in Vancouver seems at odds with the fact the Cat Empire inspires this reaction all over the world, any day of the year.
Every song played, from older favourites like ‘Two Shoes’ and ‘Call Me Home’ to their newer tracks like ‘Bulls’ and ‘Adelphia,’ pulled on the crowd, keeping them energized. From Latin to reggae, the night had something for everyone, and everything for a Cat Empire fan.
Harry James Angus and the Empire Horns were especially out to impress, alternating on the mic like the globetrotters of brass and giving the crowd grooves just wild and reaching enough to let the crowd know they’d witnessed something unique. After all, if you don’t like the sound of trumpets and trombones, what are you doing at a Cat Empire gig?
All the while the band looked like they were having a blast. And that’s the crux of what separates The Cat Empire from so many sullen-looking bands today … the infectious fun that crashes off the stage into the crowd whenever they’re playing.
And despite this dedication to feel-good music, the band didn’t miss out on advocating for the importance of social consciousness.
“This is so important; In Australia, we’re learning to pay respect to the Indigenous communities,” said Reibl, acknowledging a question that is as central in Canada as it is in Australia.
It was a show that couldn’t have vibed more with the Vancouver crowd if it had tried. The crowd loved every minute, and you can expect even more packed shows when the Empire next returns to bring their sunny stylings to Vancouver.