LIVE REVIEW: The Cat Empire at Zoo Twilights

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Zoo Twilights at Melbourne Zoo January 26 to March 10
Media passes provided by Event Organisers
Words by Bec Grech

As DJ Mike Gurrieri spun a unique mix of world music and beats, with driving bass and soulful vocals, smiling punters poured through the gates of the Melbourne Zoo.

Local artist Allysha Joy opened up the evening with her deep vocals, accompanying herself on the keys. Her set continued to build with the addition of backing harmonies, percussion, saxophone and bass. Joined by members of Melbourne’s 30/70 Collective, Joy’s performance was a mix of soul, jazz and hip hop, boasting crisp percussion licks, skilful saxophone embellishments and gorgeous vocal harmonies.

‘Joy’s performance was a mix of soul, jazz and hip hop, boasting crisp percussion licks, skilful saxophone embellishments and gorgeous vocal harmonies’

The Cat Empire graced the stage just as the sun dropped below the surrounding tree line. Kicking off their set with ‘Wolves’, a track from their 7th album, Rising With The Sun, saw the sea of picnic rugs transform into a dance floor. The chorus of the well know track And maybe one day we’ll all stand still, and watch the sun fall down over that hill‘ suggest the song was purposely chosen, and appropriately so, for the Zoo Twilights event.

We were next treated to an older song ‘Sol Y Sombra’ which prompted a lively keys solo by Ollie McGill, and a seamless transition into ‘Prophets In The Sky’ lead by Harry James Angus on the trumpet.

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A mix of old and new songs appealed to fans of all ages, including toddlers with animal face paint, playing the air trumpet from the shoulders of their parents.

Time seemed to fly by with Felix Riebl’s soothing vocals, tag teaming with Angus for the lead. Riebl’s announcement of their strict curfew lead to an incredibly strong finale, including three of their classic, feel-good anthems; ‘While You’re Still Young’, ‘The Wine Song’ (which prompted an enthusiastic call and response between Angus and the audience) and lastly ‘The Chariot’.

‘Thumping floor toms and bass accompanied Angus’ soaring vocals that increased in tempo throughout the song to a climactic finish’

My personal highlight included their performance of ‘The Darkness’, a song I grew up listening to but was yet to experience live. The thumping floor toms and bass accompanied Angus’ soaring vocals that increased in tempo throughout the song to a climactic finish. Also notable was ‘Steal The Light’ where the powerful brass section signified the chorus when the audience collectively jumped with joy, singing along.

The Cat Empire are an amazing live band who never fail to put on a fun show. Their tight jams and smooth solo transitions between band members is just as impressive the 6th time seeing them perform live as is the first.

With all proceeds from the Zoo Twilights shows going back into Zoos Victoria’s commitment to fighting the extinction of the 21 most at-risk species in Victoria, it was a wonderful way to spend a summer evening.