2006-08-07 : It’s days like these that make us happy…
Contrary to the hundreds of enquiries and emails of encouragement I received at the time, I did NOT participate in this. Thank you all for your kind words and suggestions, however as it was I already had to be at Shepherds Bush Empire to once again see The Cat Empire.
As per usual, we (Zac and I) were running sufficiently late to miss the support act, and it was as unintentional as always – getting to Shepherds Bush just always seems to be more suckishly complicated than it should. The worst bit is the predictable period of stationaryness in the tunnel somewhere between South Kensington and Hammersmith – as if taunting you that maybe today you should have taken the Central line instead. We managed to get there before The Cat Empire started however, which entitled us to a reasonable chance in the great bunfight that is the standing area at Shepherds Bush.
Now see, here's the thing about Australians – we don't like to queue. I suspect I've mentioned this before, and it turns out to be a bit of a double-edged sword. On the upside, we tend to be a little bit assertive in crowd situations – not PUSHY, mind. Maybe a little pushy. You sorta have to, otherwise you end up standing around politely and nothing appears to ever progress – many's the time at a bar when I've witnessed 3 English people go into a kind of apologetic deadlock where nobody knows who's actually next in the queue, and they just take it in turns apologising and being self-effacing until two of them die. They seem to dislike the pragmatic Australian way of getting in, getting the bartender's attention, then extracting yourself from the fracas ASAP so as not to hold proceedings up any further. Well, that works fine when there's only one person doing it, but the trouble is you get a room full of the bastards and it's unbearable !
This isn't really talking about the gig, but in parallel with the excellent music you've got this ever-changing wall of people (organically shifting as a subtle human tide depending on how many people have gone to get beer at any one moment). Joyfully, some twazzocks take it upon themselves to pick a gap in the crowd and aim for that, and thus you suddenly go from a reasonable view to staring into the back of some surfy-dude's head and trying to get your toes out from under his great big stupid thong-clad heel.
Ergh, anyway… THE MUSIC ! Wow, what a band. Since their last trip over this way they've tightened up immensely (not that they weren't awe-inspiring before), and on this tour they brought the “extra” horn section – this provided some excellent Blues Brothers style fat horn stabs to songs like The Car Song.
Curiously they opened up with The Car Song, which is weird cos it seemed more like encore material to me. Not too much later they belted out “Hello”, so there was, like, both of their most popular songs used up earlyish in the gig! Not that they were ever looking at risk of not keeping the crowd heaving right through the gig, but it's just that gigs seem to follow a fairly rigid pattern here, always culminating in Play Your Most Popular Song As The Last One In The Encore.
Musically, they were as together as I've ever heard, and there didn't seem to be quite the rivalry between Felix (the singer/percussionist) and Harry (the trumpeter/singer) that we perceived last time.
Other songs they got out were Sly, Days Like These, Manifesto, The Chariot, and a fairly neat cover of Dumb Things – which I probably would have paid more attention to, except I was too busy fighting my way through the crowd to get to the bar.
Another thing about Aussie gigs which I haven't noticed so much at non-Aussie gigs is the tendency people have to really pack into the stalls area. Whether it's our natural tendency to try to get to the front, or because the promoters just sell more tickets, who knows. However no matter how packed it gets, the old tradition of letting a guy through who's carrying 3 beers is still very rigidly observed. 2 beers, and he can manage by himself without any extra effort… but 3, and it's like Moses parting the Red Sea. LET THOSE BEERS THROUGH !
It seems a little unfair to write a big screed about The Cat Empire but nothing about the gig from the week before, however (unfortunately) it was nothing special, which is very disappointing for a John Butler Trio gig, as they are one of my favourite acts. Whether it was my mood, or my just being sick of the crowd (again, it was Shepherds Bush Empire), or whether they just didn't come out with anything remarkable – who knows. But yeah, that happened. That's about it.