Catfish and the Bottlemen return – what to make of the Reading set…

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In the midst of all the rumours of an imminent break-up, Catfish and the Bottlemen have remained silent. Of course, for anyone who has followed the band’s rise to the forefront of UK indie music, this isn’t anything out of the ordinary, with the band’s social media presence tending to solely remain dedicated to gigs and new music announcements. But with the rumour mill in full swing and four huge shows approaching ever closer, all eyes were on Reading festival last night, when the band made their eagerly anticipated return.

Would they turn up? Would all four band members be present? Would they confirm the split? There were plenty of questions going into the headline set. But for the fans at Main Stage West and those at home who were glued to BBC iPlayer awaiting their emergence, the familiar sound of Dean Martin’s ‘Aint That a Kick in the Head’ was the reassurance needed that, at the very least, Catfish were completing the obiligatory dates in the calendar.

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Credit: Emma Viola Lilja (for NME)

However, Twitter was thrown into meltdown when, following an entrance to The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’ and six songs into the main set, the BBC’s stream was cut short ‘at the band’s request’. The set did continue and the full set is now available HERE, but if you were to believe the 100-plus song setlist that fans creatively edited on the night, there was a Bondy slide tackle, a Britney Spears cover and an appearance from Mr Blobby – what a night!

Catfish and the Bottlemen have been highly regarded for putting on one of the best live shows in indie music since they broke through with ‘The Balcony’ in 2014, and it seemed shades of this were still evident. But one thing to take from last night’s show, aside from frontman Van McCann‘s new Dave Grohl esque haircut, was that something didn’t seem quite right compared to the vocal and tight-knit band performances we have become accustomed to over the last seven years. However, some of this could have been down to technical difficulties and the reason the stream was initially cut short. And we could, of course, be reading too much into the performance following the rumours. The crowd seemed to be having a great time, nonetheless.

Let’s also take into account that this was the band’s first live performance in 18 months and following a global panedmic, so too much scrutiny might be a bit harsh. Another thing to take from the performance was the absence of any new music, despite the band promising new material at their Reading & Leeds headline shows over a year ago. On the other hand, there was also no announcement of an impending break-up, so we’re no nearer to official confirmation that this year will be the end of Catfish and the Bottlemen.

Credit: Emma Viola Lilja (for NME)

Before the band played ‘7’, the penultimate track of the set, Van addressed the crowd and reflected on their first performance at the festival, which was on the BBC Introducing Stage. Three albums later and Catfish and the Bottlemen are fulfilling their childhood dreams of headlining Reading & Leeds, so whatever happens they will have an immense sense of achievement. The charismatic frontman also stayed on stage after the rest of the band had left to lead the crowd in a final chorus of ‘Cocoon’, soaking in the Reading atmosphere alone – foreshadowing, perhaps?

The band will headline Leeds Festival tonight, before heading to Swansea’s Singleton Park and Neighbourhood Weekender next weekend. So it won’t be too long before everything becomes clearer about their future. The full actual setlist for Catfish and the Bottlemen’s headline set at Reading was as follows:

1. Longshot
2. Kathleen
3. Soundcheck
4. Pacifier
5. Twice
6. Fallout
7. Conversation
8. Anything
9. Business
10. Sidetrack
11. Homesick
12. 2all
13. Rango
14. Outside
15. Fluctuate
16. 7
17. Cocoon

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