On Wednesday night at The Phoenix Concert Theatre, British Columbia’s Daniel Wesley took stage in front of a sparse crowd in support of headliner The Cat Empire. Wesley, accompanied by bassist Darren Paris played a solid set of reggae-infused surf rock, creating an ideal vibe for easy head bopping and sipping cold beer on a hot summer evening. The crowd had thickened considerably by the time Wesley’s set was over and applause for their excellent performance was enthusiastic. It was a great start for what was to come.
The Cat Empire (all 6 of them along with 2 brass section supports) appeared shortly after to wild applause. On tour to promote their newest album Cinema, the Aussie band illustrated through their music why the new album title is so fitting. Their sound is huge! Sound from Ollie McGill’s keys layered onto the shrill trumpet playing of Harry James Angus, which punctuated the vocal strength of Felix Riebl. In the background, turntable master Jamshid “DJ Jumps” Khadiwhala inserted record scratches into the fray while bassist Ryan Monroe and drummer Will Brown kept the quick tempo flowing. This blend of musical ingredients resulted in cinematic musical scores rich with Latin, reggae and blues flare. Start with Tortoise, Prince Buster and the Gyspy Kings, place into a blender and you’ll have a good start to the recipe that is The Cat Empire. With sound so grand, the band would be best suited to play large outdoor festivals in front of an audience of thousands. It just so happens they performed in exactly that setting the following Saturday at Osheaga in Montreal. And as predicted, they sounded even more magnificent there.