Halloween falling on a Saturday is both a blessing and a curse; yes, you can get dressed up as a James Bond girl and go to a brilliant house party, but on Sunday you’re going to be in for a world of pain. For the record, lads, going as a Bond girl to a Halloween party is a killer outfit – trust me, the ladies love it.
So, as I woke up alone, removed my eyeliner, blonde wig, stockings and red dress, the only thing soothing my dark, dark hangover was the thought of seeing the nation’s most talked about band that evening, Catfish and The Bottlemen. Fresh off their successful tour of the US where they were described as ‘Oasis with better manners’, the four-piece return for a sold-out tour on British soil.
On approach to Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange you can hear the screams of excitement from the fans in a 3,000-strong queue. Scanning the inside of the venue, Catfish and The Bottlemen’s clientele extends to all ages. The crowd ranges from screaming teenagers on the front row throwing their Blue WKD bottles everywhere, to the middle-aged ‘lads’ jumping up and down in the middle throwing their cans of Carlsberg everywhere, to the experienced music gurus at the back, appreciatively nodding their wise heads and sensibly enjoying their pints of John Smiths.
As the lights dim, there’s a ripple of excitement echoing around the room and the crammed venue’s doors are slammed shut. With one of the most impressive light shows I’ve ever witnessed flashing around the room, the band – dressed in black, as always – enter the stage to The Beatle’s ‘Helter Skelter’: now that’s just bloody cool.
Beginning their set with an improvised mash-up of chords from their opening song, the fearless frontman Van McCann introduces their first track of the set, ‘Rango’. On hearing this announcement, the bouncing teenagers begin to scream and bounce even higher, the lads in the middle look like they’ve just won the Premier League whilst the old boys at the back nod at one another with that telepathic look that just says… “Tune”.
Ending an extremely successful first track with a well received, “Thank you Edinburgh, it’s good to be back!”, McCann knows how to keep a crowd’s adrenaline running and wastes no breath in naming the next song, “Edinburgh, this next song’s called ‘Pacifier!'”.
It’s at this point that shirts are removed in the crowd (unfortunately solely by the lads in the middle) and thrown in the air as the band seem to be having the time of their lives. McCann leaps around the stage to the ridiculously catchy riff in the chorus of ‘Pacifier’ as the band, like true professionals, stick to their roles perfectly.
This has been a key to their success; the rest of the band, and McCann himself, seem more than happy to let the frontman soak up the limelight with his charismatic charm and passionate persona – and he pulls it off incredibly with a stage presence that would make Mick Jagger blush.
There’s a refreshing aura to this band in that they don’t take themselves too seriously, as McCann introduces the band starting with “‘Side-Show Bob’, ladies and gentlemen – the best drummer in the world!”
Gliding through tracks ‘Sidewinder’, ‘Fallout’, ’26’ and blindingly popular mega-single ‘Kathleen’ from their flawless first album ‘The Balcony’, lyrical wizard McCann has the whole room in the palm of his hand. The crowd know every single word to his songs, and it must be the greatest feeling in the world. Every riff is notably catchy and every word is intelligent and memorable. Not bad for four lads from Llandudno.
Admitting to the crowd that he’s suffering from a sore throat due to successive touring, McCann slows things down with a beautiful rendition of ‘Hourglass’ which sees him take to the stage solo, armed with just an acoustic guitar.
Despite the band’s rapid success, their feet stay firmly on the ground, which is a sought-after and honorable trait in the music industry nowadays. McCann pauses during his heart-wrenching performance of ‘Hourglass’ to acknowledge the crowd singing every word louder than him with an announcement in that trademark, youthful voice, “Edinburgh, this is mad!”
If you haven’t heard ‘Cocoon’ yet, it has the greatest verse, chorus, middle eight and lyrics in musical history. (If you haven’t realised yet, I absolutely adore this band.) ‘Cocoon’ possesses a chorus that to this day still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up after hearing it first in late 2014. So hearing it live pretty much brought on a panic attack of excitement.
Ending their faultless set with ‘Tyrants’, the album-closing track that they have been finishing gigs with since they began. The six-minute plus version explodes into a colossal climax that most of the crowd were praying wasn’t going to end.
Catfish and The Bottlemen have had a storming couple of years, where they’ve lived every young band’s dream. Through their commitment and persistence of non-stop touring at every venue in the country possible, playing to any crowd willing to have them over the last seven years, the band is now getting the recognition they deserve.
Chalking up performances on the likes of The Late Show, T in the Park and Glastonbury, the lads from Llandudno are set for world domination…and no one’s going to stop them.
Tim Harfield is a PR Executive and writer in Edinburgh
Photographs by John Harfield