After a short run with the resident DJ, The Meltdown opened the evening’s affair, with a funk driven soul bias the multi-piece band a perfect thematic warm up for genre-vague Cat Empire. Their music was fun, but in a more muted way than what the Cat Empire provided, allowing for the crowd to ease into the more festival vibrancy of the funk jazz fusions the band’s could bring about.
The Meltdown’s tracks were exciting and something that translated perfectly to a live performance. Their closing track highlighted this point marvellously as “How Funny Is Another Man’s Pain”, one of the groups early written numbers, exploded at the seams with rhythm, soulful licks and vocals that really drove home The Meltdown’s core sound.
The night was built on a wonderful change of pace, with sensual sax solos, bursting horn breaks and driving percussive moments through the development of both acts. Friday night at Melbourne Zoo was treated as an album launch by The Cat Empire crew, who were celebrating the release of their new 2019 album Stolen Diamonds. Inspiring joy and rhythm into their crowds has always been a special talent of the seven piece band and Stolen Diamonds treated the people no different live; the multiple recordings coming off of the album raising the crowd onto their feet from the comfort of their picnic blankets.
The set list was a festival of the band’s sound, with Latin groove, “How To Explain” and funky character of “Wolves” setting the scene of their work early. Yet, the band were obviously eager to display their new album over the course of the hour and a half performance. “Oscar Wilde” was a fun fantasy with a fickle form, highlighting band’s love of fostering the sound rather than classic music forms, with driving horn lines controlling the themes of the track.
Most tracks through the evening had an emphasis on instrumental solos mixed around Felix Riebl or Harry James Angus’ vocals; each bringing a different temperament to live renditions of their funky songs. There were heavy moments of nostalgia too, as a sign touting ‘145’ spurred The Cat Empire crew to quickly bust out the chorus of the now famous song.
A chill covered the evening at Melbourne Zoo, but the ecstatic dancing caused by the early Latin rhythms of the set surely warmed up much of the bustling three thousand strong crowd. The music site was littered with the sight of children playing, some hearing their first live show others, participants in a ritual of hearing what their parent grew up with. Yet having the children at the show added to the fun and flair, as their dancing set the atmosphere.
With heavy tribal beats thundering away into the night, The Cat Empire would have inspired jubilant dancing into even the grumpiest of animals of Melbourne Zoo even as their encore verged on the edge of the enclosures curfews. As such, they forced a quick three song run to work as the encore, after finishing the bulk of the set on “Still Young” (before a brief reprieve on side stage), The Cat Empire could never have started an encore with anything less energetic and so Felix introduced “Bulls”.
Nevertheless, the quieter “Kila” still had a strong impact on the mob of people; dancing and singing. The group closed on the ever so joyous, “The Chariot”. The voracious number displayed The Cat Empire’s sheer buoyancy bubbled through the famous song with a thousand strong chorus helping to fill out the vocals on the hook “Our weapons were our instruments, made from-a timber and steel”. The contemporary anti-war tune had always emphasised the fun but it really brought it in with the reveller kids dancing around in the field to it, clearly bring The Cat Empire sound to a new generation.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Melbourne Zoo Twilight’s continue this week with the weekend seeing Aloe Blacc taking the stage on the 22nd.