The Cat Empire treated their dedicated Melbourne fans to a funk-filled music masterclass

The Cat Empire treated their dedicated Melbourne fans to a funk-filled music masterclass

Forum Melbourne
Forum Melbourne
Forum Melbourne
1 / 4
Words by Priya Francis
Photos by David Harris

Well into their Stolen Diamonds tour, the ever-energetic Cat Empire play their first night in Melbourne to a crowd of dedicated and party-ready fans.

They’ve been around for about 18 years, and it definitely showed when The Cat Empire filled out The Forum for the first of two sold-out nights in Melbourne for their Stolen Diamonds tour.

Supported by Cairns artist Grace Barbé, the party atmosphere kicked off early in the night. Her mixture of Creole/English songs, paired with energetic drum grooves and syncopated guitar riffs ensured Cat Empire fans were thoroughly warmed up and entertained before they even hit the stage.

When they did, it was to a huge surge of energy from the diverse crowd, all eager to dance and sing along. Opening with ‘Anybody’ taken from the album they’re currently touring, their Afro-beat, Latin and jazz infusion lifted energy levels straight away.

Title track, ‘Stolen Diamonds’ only further emphasised the amount of fun the band were all having on stage. The ever-impressive horns section blended seamlessly with calls from the crowd joining in during the chorus, a partnership that continued for the entirety of the concert.

Trumpeter and singer, Harry James Angus had an incredible moment to shine during ‘The Darkness’, an Arabic-infused selection from The Cat Empire’s 2007 album, So Many Nights. His voice truly soared, with the Indian raga-esque vocal performance making the entire audience cheer, scream and stare in absolute wonder and appreciation.

Taking a moment to share about his own experience at the recent climate strikes, lead singer Felix Riebl led a bittersweet singalong to ‘No Longer There’. The sentimental value and timing of the tune was not lost on anyone in the crowd, and the ability for the song to be so perfectly applied to a very current situation, regardless of its 2007 release date, only made the audience appreciate it more and sing it even louder.

Angus returned again to perform ‘Barricades’, and once again, his incredible voice and vocal range took centre stage. The song presented moments of eternal vamping, providing the perfect grounding for him, as well as Jamshid Khadiwala to add his DJ scratching into the mix.

It seemed like The Cat Empire were only warming up when the unmistakable double bass line from ‘Brighter Than Gold’, from their 2013 album Steal The Light, sent the crowd into a bass-induced frenzy. It didn’t matter whether or not anyone knew what was being sung in the chorus’ backing vocals, all that mattered was that no crowd-member was idle.

However, it wasn’t until the familiar trumpet line introducing 2003 anthem ‘The Chariot’ rang out, that noise levels really peaked within The Forum. People were cheering before the song even properly started, and each riff, melody line, vocal run and drum fill was met with even greater enthusiasm from everyone, from the front of the mosh pit, right to the back of the theatre. The reggae-style verses only gave a few seconds of reprieve before the floor began shaking again with the amount of people jumping and dancing during the chorus.

The encore had, as expected, everyone crossing their fingers that we’d hear their most popular hit, ‘Hello’, but while they decided to leave it out, they did treat the audience to an energetic and dynamic performance. Consisting of ‘Bulls’ and ‘Adelphia’ from Stolen Diamonds and closing the show with ‘Steal the Light’, the title track of their 2013 album, the encore was the final burst of energy the crowd needed to send them off into the night.

Highlight: ‘Oscar Wilde’.

Lowlight: As much as murmurs in the crowd indicated everyone wanted it, ‘Hello’ was never played.

Crowd favourite: The anthemic performance of ‘The Chariot’ featuring the Grace Barbé trio.