Live Review: The Cat Empire + Pierce Brothers + Hanlon Brothers @ NightQuarter, Helensvale, 08.05.16

If you’ve not made the effort to check out NighQuarter at Helensvale yet you’re doing yourself a great disservice.

This venue is not only what residents of the northern Gold Coast desperately needed, but all of us, no matter where you live on the Coast. It’s a venue that will comfortably accommodate 2000+ people – all too evident last night with the Cat Empire drawing around 1700 fans.

From the outside you might draw the impression that it’s a site that was assembled with a heap of used shipping containers hastily thrown together to create a shambolic venue and while the post industrial garage feel is definitely a large part of the charm, the reality is that this place has been very cleverly devised. NightQuarter possesses an ambience that is easily accessible with a host of quality food and beverage options with so much room to move that in its own shabby chic way says this is both a cool and family friendly venue.

And that’s exactly what we saw last night, an all-ages triple header featuring local heroes the Hanlon Brothers (2015 GC Music Award Emerging Artist of the Year winners), the Pierce Brothers (an incredibly talented duo from Victoria who have been The Cat Empire’s guests on this tour) and finally The Cat Empire.

With the Hanlons underway from 5.00pm and The Cat Empire finishing just before 10.00pm it sensibly allowed all of us a good night’s sleep before facing the unthinkable terror that is Monday morning.

Hanlon Brothers delivered a loose and funky opener covering anyone from Sam Cooke to 2Pac while ensuring their own numbers like Can’t Wait kept the crowd happy. The Pierce Brothers had everyone onside from the outset declaring: “I know this is why you came here tonight, to sing, dance and jump around to the support act” – which we all obligingly did.

By the time The Cat Empire hit the stage we were ready to party and no one was ever going to go home disappointed. If there were any doubts as to how the main attraction felt about playing this new Gold Coast venue Felix Riebl soon set the record straight: “it’s our first time here and it’s a great place to play.” As ever The Cat Empire were having a ball and their enthusiasm was infectious.

The Cat Empire built their reputation as a live band, particularly at music festivals. Armed with a repertoire of songs that largely celebrate the joys of life carried by Latin, jazz, ska and African rhythms it’s so obvious why the band appeals. Yet if you’ve never seen them live it would be easy to dismiss The Cat Empire as the quintessential party band, missing the point that these guys are some of our finest musicians who have honed their craft over what is getting close to 20 years of touring.

Their origins as a jazz outfit are still evident through seamless extended jams, guaranteeing that a Cat Empire show is always going to be so much more than a parade of the band’s hits. These guys are so tight and yet what they do on stage never looks rehearsed – this is everything a live gig should be and more. At times their performance transcended what seemed humanly possible like DJ Jumps scratching a relentlessly fast rhythm that climbed to a psychedelic frenzy or Will Hull-Brown driving a sensationally syncopated drum solo that would have left Steve Gadd in awe.

As the band will be the first to admit – in the end it’s all about the fans – so recent numbers like Brighter than Gold, Still Young and Steal the Light all got a run while older favourites like The Wine Song (set up with a stunning Beethoven-esque piano solo from Ollie McGill and later wildly veering off into Dick Dale’s Miserlou) stole the show with Harry Angus once again in superb form with both horn and voice. With The Chariot closing the show and its lyrical refrain for peace “our weapons were our instruments made from timber and steel, we never yielded to conformity, but stood like kings in a chariot that’s riding on a record wheel” – a song was never more apt for such an original band at the top of their game.

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Feature image courtesy William Owen-Jones.


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