Review: The Cat Empire at Zoo Twilights, Melbourne, February 15th, 2019

A yearly tradition for Victorian music-lovers, the annual Zoo Twilights have become a beloved part of the state’s live music scene.

With tickets going towards saving the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, fans of music and animals come together in the first few months of each year to jam out to great tunes for a good cause.

This year, audiences eagerly welcomed back hometown heroes The Cat Empire, who made their return to the Melbourne Zoo just one year after their last performance at the same venue.

This time around though, the atmosphere was a little bit different. Rather than being a celebration of their greatest hits, tonight’s proceedings would be a little bit different, with The Cat Empire treating the show as the official launch for their long-awaited eighth album, Stolen Diamonds.

As hordes of longtime followers and new fans flooded the grounds of the Melbourne Zoo on a breezy Friday night, it was clear that the show would be anything but ordinary.

Check out The Cat Empire’s ‘Sola’:

As the Melbourne Zoo slowly filled up with dedicated music fans, families, and animal-lovers alike, the evening officially kicked off with a performance by The Meltdown, a Melbourne sextet who deliver one of the finest combinations of soul, blues, and jazz you’ll find anywhere.

Led by the inimitable voice and keyboard skills of Simon Burke, The Meltdown started things off with ‘Slow Fever’, featuring a soulful, high-energy sound, delivered with ease and casual affability.

As their all-too-short setlist continued, the group eased us into the night with tracks like ‘Be A Good Man’, and the self-described “country soul number” ‘Colours In The Sky’. Performed with the intensity of veteran bluesmen, The Meltdown effortlessly showcased their catchy tunes, accomplished delivery, and a desire to have fun along the way.

Check out The Meltdown’s ‘Slow Fever’:

After a brief intermission, it was time for the main event, with a deafening roar of applause signalling the arrival of hometown heroes The Cat Empire. Clearly buzzing from having released their latest album that very day, it was obvious that the band were about to give their all for the eager crowd.

Kicking things off with ‘Ready Now’, it didn’t take long for fans to see why The Cat Empire are such a stunning live band, with their uncanny knack to sound just like their recorded selves on full display.

With the powerful voice and charismatic stage presence of Felix Riebl taking centre stage, fans were undoubtedly transfixed on what was happening before them, singing along to tunes like ‘Wolves’ and ‘Sol y Sombra’.

Before long though, one of The Cat Empire’s trademark characteristics was in full swing, with extended solos from just about each and every member filling their cool night air during each tune.

While Harry James Angus took vocal on duties for ‘Stolen Diamonds’, an extended solo from the brass section took place during ‘How To Explain’, with something akin to a display of ‘duelling horns’ becoming the centre of attention.

Check out The Cat Empire’s ‘How To Explain’:

As new songs like the energetic ‘Oscar Wilde’ received huge applause, the earlier fan-favourites weren’t forgotten either, with ‘Brighter Than Gold’ receiving some of the biggest attention of the night.

With fans adoring the likes of ‘Anybody’ and the extended turntable solo of ‘In My Pocket’, ‘All Night Loud’ was preceded by the raffling off of a backstage hangout with the band for a lucky purchaser of the new album.

After their mesmerising set, the group announced it was time for them to cut it short, though they reassured us an encore would indeed be taking place. Fittingly, following an energetic performance of ‘Still Young’, the group took their customary leave from the stage, appearing again just moments later.

Of course, with a strict curfew in place (because “the animals have to sleep”, as Felix Riebl explained), the band decided to eschew any excessive talking, racing into a three-song encore to end the night right.

After kicking things off with ‘Bulls’, recent single ‘Kila’ received a mass of applause, before the group polished off the evening’s proceedings with a stunning rendition of ‘The Chariot’.

As audiences left the venue, some found themselves lamenting the lack of earlier hits from the group’s performance, while others praised the opportunity to hear a mix of the group’s latest record.

Of course, with two other sold-out Zoo Twilights performances following over the next two nights, it’s clear that audiences will be receiving an equally-diverse setlist each day, turning each concert into a truly unique experience as tonight was.

While we’ll find out next week just how Stolen Diamonds fares on the ARIA charts, it’s clear that the band’s live performances and exceptional musicianship continuously see them ranked as the #1 band in the country.

Check out The Cat Empire’s ‘Kila’:

The Cat Empire @ Melbourne Zoo Twilights 2019

Saturday, February 16th
Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne, VIC

Sunday, February 17th
Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne, VIC

The Cat Empire @ Melbourne Zoo Twilights 15/2/18 Setlist

‘Ready Now’
‘Wolves’
‘Sol y Sombra’
‘Stolen Diamonds’
‘How To Explain?’
‘Oscar Wilde’
‘Daggers Drawn’
‘Two Shoes’
‘Brighter Than Gold’
‘Anybody’
‘Steal The Light’
‘In My Pocket’
‘All Night Loud’
‘Still Young’

Encore:

‘Bulls’
‘Kila’
‘The Chariot’