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Cabaret review: The Cat Empire

Cabaret Festival

Cabaret Festival artistic director Ali McGregor predicted The Cat Empire would be “off-the-hook great”, and they did not disappoint – performing an ultra-cool show of pulsing rhythms and smooth beats that got everyone to their feet.

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Known as one of the world’s best festival bands, The Cat Empire certainly know how to work a lively and passionate crowd – even in a seated venue like the Festival Theatre.

Launching into “Brighter than Gold” and gliding through an upbeat playlist of some of their most popular tracks, including “Two Shoes”, “Still Young” and “Wolves”, the group performed with the energy and virtuosity of a well-oiled music machine.

With frontman Felix Riebl leading the pack, supported by Harry James Angus on vocals and trumpet, they peppered their Cabaret Festival show with moments of improv magic, including a five-minute interlude of horns, and – my highlight – Ollie McGill absolutely slaying it on keyboard.

Along the way the show’s “special guests” were revealed in what was perhaps an attempt to inject more cabaret into The Cat Empire’s style of music. We met a burlesque dancer, a hat juggler, a hula-hooper and Captain Frodo with his balancing act, but it was all unnecessary and at times distracting, with the band continuing to provide the main entertainment on stage.

Away from the sweaty and lively crowds of outdoor festivals such as WOMADelaide, the musicians did their best to entice a sense of atmosphere in the formal theatrical environment of the Festival Theatre – and, to their credit, they succeeded. Such is the power of their music that it wasn’t long before the audience members were all on their feet, dancing away to “The Chariot” and “Bulls”.

Just as we began to think the band would part without playing arguably their most popular track, “Hello”, they returned on stage for an encore. It was a bittersweet moment – Reibl had earlier announced they would be more or less retiring some of their older tracks with the release of a new album planned for later in the year.

Now veterans of the Australian festival scene, The Cat Empire have proved they are here for the long run. If this one-off Adelaide concert is anything to go by, fans can look forward to many more “off-the-hook-great” shows from this group of talented musicians.

 Read more InDaily Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.

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