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Live Review: The Cat Empire, Odette

17 September 2018 | 4:23 pm | Dave Burrowes

"You should definitely find space for them on your gig bucket list."

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Quickly rising star Odette kicked off the evening with her beautiful, soaring vocals. Backed by a pair on keys and percussion that she sent on and off stage intermittently as they were needed, Odette controlled the space from front and centre. The support set saw her playing most of the tracks currently getting her airtime; crowd favourites like Lights Out and Come Close making prominent appearances alongside a particularly memorable cover of The Cranberries’ Zombie. Charming and earnest with the audience, Odette would break apart her incredible renditions with sweet moments or perhaps a self-deprecating joke to set up the next track. “I got another sad song,” she laughs. “I wrote this as a sixteen-year-old girl and if you listen to the lyrics you’ll go, 'Yeah, this was written by a sixteen-year-old.'” In the same vein, Odette finished her set with the announcement that she’d “be over by the merch stand if you wanna chat”, waving goodbye to the already massive crowd filling the sold-out venue on her way off the stage. If Odette isn’t on your ‘ones to watch’ list yet, she probably should be. I for one am super excited to get to watch the 21-year-old mature further as a songwriter - there are definitely big things ahead.

The Cat Empire haven’t released a new album since 2016’s Rising With The Sun so the setlist played a bit like a 'best of', although they did save some of their biggest hits until last. The band teased new music as well, vocalist Felix Riebl announcing that although they're “gonna release this new album real slow”, that he was going to give us a taste of some of it tonight. We heard Oscar Wilde, a fun, nostalgic, percussive track about a dog he used to know, and a track introduced as 'Killer', a soaring song with maybe a little calypso vibe that was very easy to dance to. Both tracks were on the poppier, radio edit side than some of their longer tracks.

The team is all charisma; Riebl and Harry James Angus (lead trumpeter) share the role of frontman, each with his own distinct vibe letting you recognise who’s leading with your eyes closed. Plenty of fronting time is also given to the other core members of the band - long, jammy instrumentals are a strong staple of any good Empire song and the audience were treated to several high quality, durational jazzy solos by the musicians. This is really at the foundation of The Cat Empire’s party vibe - the audience recognises the tracks they know and love, but the real fun lies in the incredible, often improvisational, jam sessions that get the whole crowd moving.

The tour announcement boasts that The Cat Empire sell more tickets annually than any other Aussie band and you can see the evidence in how broad an appeal they have by the crowd they’ve attracted. The all ages gig was well and truly all ages, with plenty of cat ear-wearing families present. Among the youngest in the crowd was Marcus - a leukaemia patient who’d been let out of the hospital for the night to attend the gig -  who Riebl acknowledged at the halfway mark, pausing to dedicate Two Shoes to the fan. When the show was done, and the band well gone, the entire audience stopped unprompted to cheer the waving Marcus when they spotted him up on the balcony; a sweet moment that hopefully topped off an already excellent night for the young punter.

When Hello was absent from the main set, this reviewer wondered if maybe the band had shelved their breakthrough track, but of course they squeezed it into the encore alongside Brighter Than Gold and the show-ending The Chariot. The Cat Empire are a band who are so good live you should definitely find space for them on your gig bucket list.