The Cult: Hidden City Live, Kansas City

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Editor’s Note: While blogging about drinking and rock and roll is OK, blogging while drinking and listening to rock and roll isn’t always great… We’ll try to restrain Mr. B&V from his drunken, ecstatic post-concert ramblings, like those below, but we can’t guarantee anything…

Man, what a shitty week I was having… and then live rock n roll happens and everything is ok…

I took the Rock Chick out tonight to see the Cult on what was our second show on the “Alive In The Hidden City Tour” tonight… our first show was in Chicago back in, I believe April or maybe March. What a difference 5 months can prove to be. Many of the same songs were played, but in a much different order and with a lot looser approach. Noticeably missing was “Dark Energy” which is the first song on “Hidden City” and was the opening song in Chicago…

We stood next to a couple of guys, Sean and Terence who hadn’t seen the Cult since the “Sonic Temple” tour, many years ago. It was great to meet two guys who were inspired by Billy Duffy to pick up the guitar and start a band. I may have had way too much vodka tonight but as I write this I’m pretty sure I’m still going to be impressed by all of this in the morning. Wow, what a healing experience a concert is. All the tension I was feeling is gone now.

The Cult were loose and clearly having fun. This was the first show I’d seen them from up in a balcony, instead of down on the floor amongst the masses. The difference in viewpoint was startling. Billy Duffy was just man-handling the guitar tonight and I mean that in a good way. From my elevated view point I could see Ian Astbury and the joyous dancing he was doing. He was more animated than I’d seen him since the “Beyond Good and Evil” tour when I first saw these guys live. Tonight’s show may have even topped that first Cult show on “BGE” but that may be the vodka talking.

Highlights for me tonight were “Deeply Ordered Chaos” and “GOAT” (the first encore tune) from the new album. These are tunes that they should play in every show from now on. I also liked the loose, jammy version of “Sweet Soul Sister” they played, but I should mention the Rock Chick doesn’t like that sort of thing, and was vocal about Ian’s loose approach tonight. I thought it was great, but hey, I’m full of Ketel One…. “Fire Woman” was the crowd pleaser it always is. “Rain” is another personal favorite of mine, as is “Phoenix” both from the “Love” album.

Ian, at one point, asked if we had a “rock station” in KC…and further pondered why they wouldn’t play the new Cult album. I have to ask the same question… He said he was as depraved and debauched as anybody else, why not play the Cult’s “Hidden City?” Again, I have to ask the same question. It’s great to hear hard rock played live, why not play some of that music on the damn radio…

If you haven’t already done so, pick up “Hidden City” on vinyl, CD or iTunes, and turn it up loud…

Cheers!

 

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The Cult: Alive In The Hidden City, Chicago 3/24/2016

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“Ian is awfully ornery tonight” – The Rock Chick 3/24/2016

The Rock Chick and I flew up to Chicago over the weekend to catch The Cult’s “Alive In the Hidden City” tour at the Chicago House of Blues. Man, am I glad I went. As I was walking into the lobby of my hotel before the show, I ran into three guys from Decatur, Illinois. One of them, Clint, was wearing a Cult t-shirt and after my two Old Fashion lunch I felt bold so I stopped in the middle of the lobby and asked loudly, “Hey man, are you going to the show.” Oddly, after that brief interaction I couldn’t go anywhere without running into the Decatur 3. Every time I went into a bar, hit the button for an elevator, or at the actual Cult show, I ran into the guys from Decatur. They were true Cult fans, and it was very nice to meet kindred spirits.

That’s the thing about concerts. When you’re into a band, you tend to meet like minded folks at a concert. Especially a show in a smaller venue like the House of Blues. The concert begins to transcend a simple live show. There is an almost spiritual connection you have with the band and the people in the crowd. There was a guy at the show who kept holding up his lighter, that took me back to a pre-cellphone world. Standing on the floor, hands in the air, singing along with the rest of the crowd, I felt a real connection with everyone in the room. After the show Decatur Ron and I were talking about the almost spiritual/religious nature of rock concerts and he agreed with me. There is something about this new material that has The Cult charged up. The only bands I’ve seen pull that type of intimacy off in an arena setting are Springsteen, U2 and The Stones…but I digress.

I must say Friday night at the House of Blues was a special concert. I’ve seen the Cult nearly 10 times over the last 15 years and they were simply on fire Friday. Ian Astbury was more animated than I have ever seen him. He does this skip/kick dance move that has gotten rarer and rarer over the years – not Friday, he was moving like man half his age. He was engaging with the crowd, funny and extremely charismatic. When he’s on like he was Friday, he is the consummate front man. He has an almost shamanic ability to raise the level of the entire room. Friday was one of those nights. He dedicated a song to the late Ray Manzarek of the Doors, made fun of American beer for being piss, and handed out tambourines to those lucky enough to be up near the stage. And not to sound like a chick, but the guy’s hair is long again and instead of slicking it back he was letting the freak flag fly. Dressed in all black with a blazer on, he was shaking that hair all over the place. It just seemed to make it more primal. It was after he gave somebody in the audience some gentle shit for texting during “Hinterland” that the Rock Chick turned me and laughingly said, “My, my, Ian is awfully ornery tonight…” I couldn’t have summed it up any better.

From a technical standpoint, the sound was great. I could tell Billy Duffy was struggling with his first guitar, which looks like the custom Gretsch Black Falcon I’ve been reading about. After two or three songs he quickly switched over to a black Les Paul. He ended the show with that beautiful White Falcon. Ian’s vocals were high in the mix and he sounded great. His voice was strong and very full. You can tell he’s very into this new material, and it has really put a lot of steam in his stride. The oddest thing Friday was the introduction of keyboards to the Cult’s sound. The new rhythm guitar player, who looks like he may be Rob Zombie’s illegitimate child, also doubles as a keyboard player, which was a first at a Cult show for me. The keyboard textures on the new stuff worked but inexplicably during “She Sells Sanctuary” the guy chose to play a piano figure instead of that brilliant rhythm guitar counterpoint to the main riff. It was the only sour note all night.

I was wondering how the new material off the great “Hidden City” was going to translate live. I didn’t have to wait long, as they opened with a muscular version of “Dark Energy”. Needless to say, this new stuff is awesome live. They quickly moved into “Rain” and then “Wildflower”, which was an amazing trio of songs to start the show off. After the always great “Horse Nation” they played another new song, “Hinterland” which was stunning live. About 1/3 of the show was from the new album, and the stuff just sounds great. “Deeply Ordered Chaos” was probably my favorite, but I’m pretty biased about that song. The setlist did take a left turn when they played the obscure “Gone” from “The Cult” album (aka the “Ram” album). I love it when a band goes obscure. I would have rather heard “Spanish Gold” but hey, that’s just me. “Fire Woman” made a reappearance on the set list for the first time in a very, very long time and the crowd went predictably batshit crazy for that one. After a slightly disappointing “She Sells Sanctuary” (rhythm guitar next time, not keyboards new guy), the Cult came back for a great encore with “G.O.A.T” from the new album and then a strong version of “Love Removal Machine”. The night was a tremendous mixture of new material and classic material. My only complaint is that the Cult could have added a few more tunes. I get that 90 minutes is the typical set length these days if you’re not Springsteen, but adding “Rise” or “Dirty Little Rockstar” would have been a nice add.

All in all, this was a great show. If you’re lucky enough to live in a town where the “Alive In The Hidden City Tour” is coming, I urge you strongly to get out and see the Cult. You’re in for a good old fashion, rock and roll evening. I couldn’t help thinking as I was standing on the floor of the House of Blues, I’d rather be spending the night with the Cult, who feel like old friends these days, than sitting at home. Support live music and it will support you!!

Cheers! (Setlist below)

  1. Dark Energy
  2. Rain
  3. Wildflower
  4. Horse Nation
  5. Hinterland
  6. Honey From a Knife
  7. Gone
  8. Lil Devil
  9. Birds of Paradise
  10. Deeply Ordered Chaos
  11. Sweet Soul Sister
  12. Fire Woman
  13. The Phoenix
  14. She Sells Sanctuary
  15. (Encore break) G.O.A.T.
  16. Love Removal Machine

Review: The Cult, Dark Energy, the first single from the upcoming Hidden City

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In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit, I was late getting on the Cult’s bandwagon. Truth be told, my wife turned me onto the Cult. In the 80’s, which might be described as their “heyday” I was busy listening to music recorded in the 70’s. I didn’t have time for the Cult, Motley Crue or Metallica in the 80’s. I was busy spelunking for older music. Not to compare the Cult to Motley or Metallica. The Cult are one of the few groups I hear on hard rock/heavy metal stations and alternative rock stations. They have a certain “undefinability”. Their 80s albums – “Electric”, “Sonic Temple” and my favorite, “Love” are now standards in my record collection.

I owe all this, as I’ve said, to my wife, the “Rock Chick”. I got turned onto the Cult about the time they released “Beyond Good And Evil” in 2001. It was an outstanding return from an extended hiatus. It is a shining example of an album put out by a band later in it’s career. Excentuating their strengths without becoming nostalgic for those 80s albums. If the record company had been more supportive, this album could have been a monster. The first single from “Beyond Good and Evil” was a song called “Rise”. It’s not only my favorite song on the album, it may be one of my top 2 or 3 Cult songs, period.

In 2007, after another extended break, the Cult returned with their album “Born Into This”. “Born Into This” was another strong late period record for this band. The first single on that album was also amazingly strong, “Dirty Little Rock Star”. I still love to quote that song to my wife when we’re out partying…”you sick little hipster”. It was a great first salvo from another great Cult album.

In 2012 the Cult released another great album in “Choice of Weapon”. I saw them several times on the tour in support of this album, and the songs are even better live than on the record. Technically, the first single from “Choice of Weapon” was a song called “Lucifer”, again a catchy start, maybe not as strong as “Rise” or “Dirty Little Rock Star” but it was a damn fine rock song. Astbury said from the stage the night I saw him, to introduce “Lucifer”, “it’ll take the world 10 years before they figure out what this is about”. Ah, Ian. Prior to “Choice” coming out the Cult released a series of music “Capsules”. The first one they released, and the first single from this batch of songs was actually “Every Man, Every Woman Is a Star”. That too is an amazing first song, especially after a 5 year absence. The wife kept that one in high rotation at the house when it came out.

Which all leads me to “Dark Energy” from the upcoming February album, “Hidden City”. Apparently this album completes a trilogy of albums that began with “Born Into This”. Taking only 4 years between albums is almost a record these days for the Cult. As the Cult have such a strong history of great first singles, I bought “Dark Energy” the moment I discovered it was out. The song starts with some tribal drumming from John Tempesta who has been on board since “Born Into This”. Quickly Billy Duffy’s guitar (hopefully his Gretsch White Falcon) comes careening into the song. I was elated, here we go, another great first single. One of the strongest weapons the Cult have is the amazing baritone of lead singer Ian Astbury. He is simply put, one of rock’s great, under appreciated front men. So, naturally I was stunned when his vocals started and they are buried down in the mix. Don’t get me wrong, Tempesta’s drumming and Duffy’s guitar are enough to carry this song, but after a couple of listens I realized, this song has no chorus that I could discern. There’s no hook? “Don’t bore us get to the chorus”. The lyrics of “Dark Energy” come across as a litany of warnings or complaints, depending on your view point. It certainly lives up to it’s title, dark.

I have no fear this will be yet another strong Cult album. The more I listen to this single the more I like it, it’s a grower. But, I must admit, after “Rise”, “Dirty Little Rockstar”, “Lucifer” or, if you will, “Every Man, Every Woman…” I was a touch disappointed but only because I love Ian Astbury’s vocals so much. Billy Duffy is a riff monster on this song, so it is still absolutely worth a purchase but be prepared to spend some time with this song. The reward is there, but it doesn’t become apparent until the third or fourth listen. So enjoy all you “sick little hipsters” out there!

So that’s my take folks. Pour something strong, and as always… Cheers!