Catfish and the Bottlemen at Manchester Apollo review

Henry Lewis connected the dots between Catfish and The Bottlemen and beating your Dad at table tennis.

Ben Smith

Last updated: 5th Nov 2015

Image: Catfish and The Bottlemen

Every band has a song that reminds you of a love lost. The one that takes you right back to the start, when the excitement wasn’t forced and the future was yours to share. The desperate lyrics speak volumes and makes memories linger for so much longer.

Some bands are better than others when it comes to writing songs that accurately portray how it feels to be young, heartbroken and horny.

No one else in recent times has mastered this quite like Catfish and the Bottlemen. Arriving into Manchester on a November evening, a fog had lifted to reveal a cold, black sky that left fans shivering outside eager to consume as much nicotine as possible before the main event.

The first of two consecutive appearances at the Manchester Apollo, the decadent theatre which the four lads from Llandudno found themselves in was a far cry from their humble beginnings.

A lot has changed since the band released their debut album, The Balcony, in 2014. From playing in car parks to a slot at Glastonbury, the band are now on their largest tour to date. With a set that whipped through their top 10 records, each and every introduction was greeted with a rapturous reception.

Stepping onstage dressed head to toe in black, Van McCann acknowledged the crowd briefly before tearing into ‘Rango’ (catch the track below).

Throughout ‘Pacifier’, ‘Fallout’ and ‘Kathleen’ bodies swirled and heads bobbed in a sea of sweat. Arms were permanently aloft and choruses were hollered with undying emphasis. Explosive and electrifying during these highly charged numbers, Van McCann is quite the opposite when addressing his fans.

Throughout the entire evening he constantly thanked those who adore him, and eventually apologised for his overt politeness. He needn’t have though, as it was a treat to see an artist of his calibre act in such a down to earth manner.

Nestled into the middle of the set was ‘Homesick’, and from this point onwards McCann had the audience in the palm of his hand.

With its delicate guitar in the verses, it was left to the fans to take over from the singer before the chorus erupted and the room was united. As three quarters of the band left a stage shrouded in darkness, only one man remained, acoustic guitar slung round his neck with a spotlight illuminating him.

No prizes for guessing who. After yet more words of thanks came the tender yearning of ‘Hourglass’, a brief interlude from the hormonal chaos that is a Catfish and the Bottlemen gig. In new song ‘7’ the signs are positive that a follow up album may be in the pipeline.

Its chunky guitars and typically immediate chorus are Catfish to a tee and there was a murmur of excitement upon its finish. ‘Cocoon’, a song unavoidable if you've ever listened to the radio, was the night’s penultimate number and prompted the biggest reaction.

Perhaps it’s because people like shouting “fuck it”, or perhaps because it's an undeniable indie anthem? Whatever it is, it raises the roof. The evening ended seductively with the whining guitars and longing vocals of ‘Tyrants’.

It’s not the ending you’d necessarily expect, but it’s the last song on the album and is a fitting end to the gig too. As the smoke subsided and lost articles of clothing were reunited with their owners, one fan proclaimed: “It’s like beating your dad at table tennis or something”.

When you think about it, he isn’t wrong. For both a Catfish gig and a table tennis victory against your Dad, you need to be in your teens and you need to have experienced heartache. By its conclusion, however, you’ll be elated.

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Words: Henry Lewis