Review: The Cat Empire & Allysha Joy at the Melbourne Zoo Twilights, February 3 2018

By this point, punters have come to know and love Melbourne’s Zoo Twilights series, with some of the finest Aussie musicians descending upon the picturesque location to give dedicated audiences a night to remember. Of course, last night’s performance by The Cat Empire was no exception to the rule, clearly serving as an early highlight for this year’s concert series.

As Melbourne Zoo slowly filled up with families and music lovers, the evening’s vibe was already much different to normal performances held at the zoo. This wasn’t an audience turning up to see a huge international act showcase their talents on the stage, no, this was an audience getting ready to spend an evening with old friends, whose music just so happened to have soundtracked their lives for close to 20 years.

Kicking off the evening’s entertainment, punters were given a chilled out session of good vibes and soulful tunes from Melbourne’s own Allysha Joy. With smooth, strong vocals, and a performance style that evoked images of a smokey jazz bar, this fantastic musician stunned the audience with her eclectic, jazzy performance.

As Joy’s set continued, her infectious stage presence began to spread out into the crowd, with the audience increasingly enjoying her hypnotic performance style, and tunes full of worldly, socially-conscious lyrics. Soon enough though, it was time for this wonderful performance to cease, and having eased all in attendance into the evening’s performance, Allysha Joy truly had served her purpose, becoming a wonderful primer for all the action that was set to follow.

Before long, the stage became filled with various instruments whose mere presence piqued the interest of many in the front row. However, any questions that were being raised were soon answered, as the collective known as The Cat Empire took to the stage as cheers and riotous applause filled the air.

Almost instantly, every member of the audience was on their feet, dancing with boundless energy as the sounds of the group’s hit ‘Wolves’ washed over them, singing along to almost every word as if they were witnessing the band’s early performances in Melbourne’s jazz clubs.

Up on stage, the band were clearly in their element, as Felix Riebl’s affable nature made him a clear crowd favourite, while the highly-accomplished trumpet playing and inimitable vocals of Harry James Angus rang out into the air with a dedication rarely seen in performers today.

As the night wore on, countless families continued to dance in almost every available space of the grounds, leading to Riebl making a comment on the all-encompassing make-up of the crowd, noting that tonight’s audience consisted of “everyone who knew The Cat Empire back then, and their children.”

While the audience sang along and danced with countless hits from the group’s back catalogue, including ‘Bulls’, ‘Brighter Than Gold’, and ‘The Chariot’, and plenty of fan-favourites, such as ‘The Wine Song’, ‘The Darkness’, and ‘Daggers Drawn’, the band continued to impress with their highly-acclaimed, expert abilities, turning the evening into something akin to a masterclass of professional musicians.

Sadly, to the dismay of some in the crowd, the band chose to eschew performing some of their bigger hits, including ‘Hello’, ‘Sly’, or ‘The Car Song’, but to many others, their absence in the setlist was hardly an issue at all, with almost everyone in attendance heading for the exists in discussion of the brilliance they had just witnessed.

With The Cat Empire getting ready to celebrate 20 years of existence next year, some could be forgiven for thinking that a band such as this could begin to dip in quality as the years pass by. However, if last night’s performance proved anything, it’s that not only do The Cat Empire keep on getting better, but their phenomenal live performances show a band very clearly in their element, which only makes their fans more excited for what the next 20 years will bring.

Check out The Cat Empire’s ‘The Chariot’:

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