written by Chris Familton
Rewards come to those who do the hard work and Katchafire have certainly been doing that for the last decade with relentless touring and four albums of exceptional roots reggae music. For a band that probably gets next to no radio airplay in Australia, attracting a large crowd to the Enmore Theatre showed just how large an audience they have gathered over the years.
Up and coming local reggae act This Version were impressive in the opening slot, warming the punters up and loosening the joints for the main act. They too trade in a fairly traditional reggae form but the vocals of Ray Te Oranga Nolan contain traces of hip hop and r&b, adding up to a more contemporary feel. With a still growing crowd and the large Enmore stage, the connection with the audience wasn’t complete but the band did an admirable job of bridging the gap.
After a ‘hype man’ type intro Katchafire took the stage to a rousing reception from the audience seemingly made up of mainly fellow Kiwis. The great thing about reggae is that it is pretty much impossible to stand still. That offbeat rhythm has a way of seeping into your hips and knees and before you know it your head is nodding away. Katchafire have the knack of keeping the tempo just right for maintaining perpetual movement without relying on faster songs or excessive audience call and response antics. Their new album On The Road Again featured prominently with the title track opening the set and name-checking the myriad of places they have visited on their tours. Alongside older tracks like Lover Letter, Rude Girl and Who You With, Katchafire showed the strength of writing they’ve been able to maintain over their career. They included one cover, a little predictably, of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds which sounded positively congregational with the audience almost drowning out the band at times. Props should go to both guitarist Grenville Bell for his beautiful solos and the understated and rock solid rhythm section. Katchafire are a band that relies on a sense of community and family in their music and their audience and there was definitely a strong sense of that (and ganja smoke) in the Enmore Theatre.
this review was first published in The Drum Media (Sydney)