“Sheffield, are yis good?” hollers Van McCann, guitar draped loose, as several thousand teenage girls respond with wails of rapture.
Llandudno’s most famous son is on ebullient form, and with good reason; only a song into Catfish and the Bottlemen’s show at the Don Valley Bowl and three different variants of coloured smoke are billowing across the grass verges, engulfing a crowd high on the Welsh quartet’s swaggering two-pronged guitar assault.
Their knack for throwing crunchy, catchy riffs together, cribbed from the mid-noughties indie songbook, is a wholly unfashionable one – less old dog, new tricks, more new dog, old tricks. But on a drizzle-soaked South Yorkshire evening, their rock ’n’ roll anachronisms remain boisterously potent, thanks to their slick live chops and their frontman’s brash wantonness.
Winding up a short UK tour, this is as much a victory lap as anything else for the group, coming on the back of arguably their most successful year. As such, they stick to the hits; across an hour-plus set bolstered by occasional jams, they lean heavily on debut record The Balcony, its brash brand of in-yer-face chunky riffs and laddishly romantic lyricism lending themselves well to the response McCann and cohorts – Benji Blakeway, Bob Hall and Bondy Bond – incite.
Their frontman oozes cookie-cutter bad-boy charisma; when he wiggles his hips during the throbbing bass breakdown for Soundcheck, the response is a deafening scream. On Pacifier’s buffed-up scuzz, he drawls with an assured confidence; on the low-slung surge of Anything, his darts his tongue out with a lazy swipe, to audible swoons. He is a magnetic throwback; a sexed-up black hole of a performer with an inextinguishable gravitational pull.
Such is the fervour McCann inspires, his bandmates often fall into his shadow, but they vamp along gamely, with rambunctious runs through Twice and 7.
At one point, the stage is almost flooded by inflatable crocodiles thrown from the audience, the emblem of the band’s second album The Ride. It’s a strangely whimsical offering on a night of less quirky fare; when the glossy air-punch anthemics of Cocoon arrive, it quickly dispels any notion of capriciousness, instead regaling with a faux-nostalgic hedonism.
“From the bottom of our hearts Sheffield, thank you,” their bandleader proclaims earnestly before energetic closer Tyrants.
Game-changers they ain’t – but Catfish and the Bottlemen tap into youthful rebelliousness with a chutzpah it would be boorish to undermine. New dog, old tricks indeed.