Catfish with support Dove and Boweevil
John Peel Centre for Creative Arts, Stowmarket
This was Catfish’s third visit to the John Peel Centre, the last being this time last year. Tonight’s show had a tweaked line-up with new drummer Kev Hickman joining Matt & Paul Long, and deputising on bass for the night was Josh Rigal. The regular bassist Adam Pyke had been given the night off as it was his birthday.
Firstly, the support act Dove & Boweevil deserve a mention as they delivered a superb performance. I’d previously enjoyed seeing Lauren Dove and Mark ‘Boweevil’ Howes as a two piece semi-acoustic act, but tonight they brought the full band along adding keys, drums, bass and some fantastic sax from Joe McGlohon. From the first note to the last their performance was engaging and over all too soon. They set a high bar for Catfish to follow.
Catfish bring a delightful variety to their music with vocal duties shared between the differing styles of Matt and Paul Long. Matt offering a powerful rock sound, Paul having a softer tone. Adding further variety, some songs are keyboard led rather than guitar which mixes things up and to top it off there is a nice mix of moody to upbeat with slow burning bluesy numbers to rocky tunes. There’s never a dull moment.
The hard rocking ‘Up In Smoke’ started the night’s proceedings, the opening power chords waking the audience from their pre-gig slumber. After a brief introduction to the new faces in the band the catchy ‘Leading Me On’ followed. In many a band, drummers often go unnoticed holding things together at the back, this is certainly not the case with Kev Hickman. With a mass of curly locks there is a frenzy of activity at the back of the stage, all done with what seemed like a permanent smile, total enthusiasm and hugely entertaining.
Paul took over vocals for the slow haunting ‘Ghosts’. This brought a more sombre feel with the delightful guitar solos from Matt making the hairs on the back of your neck tingle. Matt was back on vocals for ‘The Root Of All Evil’, which required a quick guitar retune during which we were informed that the song was about the state of the world today. With its dark heavy guitar riffs and driven drum beat, it seems things aren’t good.
Reflecting on the name of the venue, Paul Long spoke of how he had worked with John Peel at the BBC as a production engineer for his programme on the 70’s and suspected he may not have liked the next song ‘Soulbreaker’, but would appreciate its sentiment about keeping music real. It was a fine song with a metronomic drum rhythm, and there was definitely no punk influence.
The set continued to meander through songs from their last two albums Broken Man & Burning Bridges. The ‘Big Picture’ was introduced as mildy optimistic, Matt having previously declared that “I don’t do happy songs”, and indeed it was very much more upbeat, aided by Paul’s vocal style. ‘Exile’ soon brought things back to a more serious tone, a song about living with depression starting with a languid drifting beat you can lose yourself in until it suddenly kicks into another gear half way through. A beautifully crafted song.
Sandwiched between ‘Too Far To Fall’ and the Joe Bonamassa style ‘Breaking Up Somebody’s Home’ was ‘Broken Man’, which is one of the band’s must play songs. Catfish is a lot about Matt’s guitar playing and this song brought it to the fore.
No Catfish show would be complete without the crowd pleaser ‘Make It Rain’, and at over 15 minutes it is an epic song which showcases exceptional guitar work with an extended searing solo. At one point the volume was slowly reduced until there was no amplification. You could hear a pin drop, there was not even somebody talking at the back to annoy everybody. That marked the end of the set, but as the band could only leave the stage through the crowd, the encore ritual was scrapped and one more song offered, which the crowd heartily accepted. The cheerful ‘Better Days’ ended the evening on a high.
It was heartening
to see that the numbers have increased each time Catfish visit the JPC and they
seem to have a growing fan base in the area judging by the number of people
singing along and/or sporting their Catfish T-shirts. They’re back in
Words & Photos: Laurence Harvey