Review: The Cult, Live In Concert At The Venerable Uptown Theater, Kansas City, MO September 27, 2022 – Sensational Show!

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*Photo above of Ian Astbury (vocals) and Billy Duffy (guitar) of the Cult taken by your intrepid blogger

I wish I could capture the elation I feel after a great, great rock n roll concert. I felt like I was walking on clouds as I left Kansas City’s venerable Uptown Theater after last night’s show by the Cult – Ian Astbury (vocals extraordinaire), Billy Duffy (guitar), John Tempesta (drums), Charlie Jones (bass) and Damon Fox (keyboards). I felt even more pumped up than I did after recently seeing Starcrawler live in August and that says something.

I do have to admit, I couldn’t help but turn to the Rock Chick last night and say, “What a difference 4 or 5 months make…” We had seen the Cult previously on this tour, in Denver in May, and it was not like last night. The band was awfully sluggish that night although Ian Astbury worked his ass off to get the crowd into it. That wasn’t the case last night. When this band is on and they all lock into a groove – as they did last night immediately – it’s like watching the Bill Russell led Celtics in the late 50s… (not that I’m old enough to have seen that, I just like the metaphor). Championship play indeed! I was thinking it’d had been a while since I’d seen a band twice on a tour. I used to try and catch the Stones twice or more on their big U.S. tours. I would always try and see Van Halen in both KC and Wichita. I saw Springsteen twice on the Born In The U.S.A. tour. But that was all long, long ago in a galaxy far away. But then I realized I did see Depeche Mode on the Spirit tour in 2017 in both Denver and Tulsa. I am so glad we decided to see the Cult again, it was so much better last night.

I don’t know what it is about the Uptown Theater that seems to bring out the magic for the Cult. It’s where I saw them the first time on the Beyond Good And Evil tour in 2001 and it was one Hell of a show as was last night’s concert. Last night may have been so much better than the show in Denver because admittedly I had much better seats – the 5th row – and that always makes you feel more a part of the experience when you’re that close. The Uptown is a slightly smaller venue than the cavernous Mission Ball Room so that gave it a more intimate feel and maybe the band picked up on that. The stage was smaller so maybe that made them play so tightly. Or perhaps it’s just as Billy Duffy said when he got on the mic after the show, when the band was taking bows, “We’ve got a lot of history in this room.” Billy, I’m just glad to have shared some of that with you!

Make no mistake, this was a great show last night. The Cult, as my friend Stormin’ used to say, “brought down the sky” last night. I don’t know if that was the best Cult show I’d ever seen – it’d be hard to pick just one – but it certainly ranks up there. I really liked the Love tour where they played that entire LP. And yes, I also dug the Electric tour. My first time seeing them, which is always special, at that very same Uptown Theater also ranks up there… While I criticized Billy Duffy’s guitar playing at the Denver show as sluggish, I have to say last night he was on fire. He didn’t miss a note. His solo’s were incendiary.

The Cult climbed on the smokey, incense laden stage a little after 9pm last night. Astbury had a long, baggy black jacket on with a black bandana tied around his head. The bandana was so low it was hard to see his eyes. As the Rock Chick said last night, “It felt like he was always looking directly at me…” The first track of the night was one of my all time favorites from the aforementioned Beyond Good And Evil, “Rise.” While the setlist was very similar to the setlist in Denver, everything just sounded “on” last night. The crowd immediately had their arms in the air. I will say, that was one of only 2 tracks they played that weren’t on their best known trio of 80s LPs Love (1985), Electric (1987), and Sonic Temple (1989). I was late to getting on the Cult bandwagon – it was the Rock Chick who turned me onto them – so if I had any complaint I’d have liked to hear something from this millennium – “Dirty Little Rock Star,” or maybe “For The Animals.” They’ve put out some great LPs over the last 20 years. It’s a shame they skipped over that. Or I’d have been happy for maybe even “Dreamtime” from their debut.

After “Rise” they went into a great 4 song run from Sonic Temple. “Sun King” has always been a favorite and last night’s rendition was sublime. I was thrilled to hear a deep cut in “Automatic Blues,” a real crunchy rocker. Again, Duffy’s playing was on fire. It became apparent to me right off the bat that the rhythm section of Charlie Jones and John Tempesta may be the best the Cult has ever had. I could feel the drums and bass through the sound waves rippling through the legs of my jeans. For “Sweet Soul Sister” they let Damon Fox lead it off with his keyboards and then in the middle of the song he had a keyboard solo that reminded me vaguely of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Ian went on a rap and I could swear he was quoting the Doors’ “Horse Latitudes.” I’m not convinced that having a keyboard player adds much to the Cult – I liked it when they had a second guitarist on stage, but then I like guitar. But admittedly “Sweet Soul Sister” was a cool moment in the show.

After a soaring rendition of “Edie (Ciao Baby)” the band launched into a series of tracks from Electric. “Li’l Devil” is always rocking good fun. They followed that with “Wildflower,” and then another deeper cut in “Aphrodisiac Jacket” (a personal favorite), and finally “Peace Dog.” “Peace Dog” was a real highlight as it turned into a sing along toward the end with everyone flashing a peace sign high above their heads, yours truly included. After the Electric tracks they played one of the new songs from the upcoming Under The Midnight Sun album, “A Cut Inside.” I had only heard it once but will admit I was surprised they didn’t play “Give Me Mercy” which has been out a little longer. Hearing “A Cut Inside” makes me that much more anxious to hear the whole new LP! I will say I feel like “A Cut Inside” is an “ok” track but it didn’t hit me like “Give Me Mercy.”

After an incendiary version of “Fire Woman,” Ian stood up on the riser at the front of the stage, held out his long braided hair and said, “Why the short hair bro’s?” I laughed out loud. Hey, I’d grow my hair long too if it looked like Ian Astbury’s. They then launched into “Revolution” a great deeper track from Love. They ended the main set with two more tracks from that LP, which were both absolute highlights from the night, with “Rain,” and then “She Sells Sanctuary” (my all time favorite Cult track).

The encore was only one song but they made it count with an AC/DC-esque version of “Love Removal Machine.” They stayed on stage to sing Happy Birthday to John Tempesta… they even had a cake for him. Then they announced the band. They seemed genuinely touched by the crowd’s reaction, especially Billy. Billy asked if any of us had been there for their first show at the Uptown… and went on to say it was a GA show, and only 4 people were there… It just felt like a really special show for these guys.

If you’re out there somewhere and the Cult is coming to your town, as I always say, “Buy the ticket, see the show.” It’s worth it, trust me.

Cheers!

Review: The Cult, New Single “Give Me Mercy” From The Upcoming LP ‘Under The Midnight Sun,’ First New Music In Six Years!!

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“Give me mercy, love will find you, give me mercy, a new language” – The Cult, “Give Me Mercy”

I can’t believe it’s been six years since we’ve had new Cult music to talk about. But it’s true, Hidden City, their last LP, came out in 2016. The pandemic has really thrown off my internal clock. I really liked Hidden City calling it a late career gem. I saw them twice on that tour, once in Kansas City and once in Chicago. I knew they had a new album coming out this year but was still surprised when I saw “Give Me Mercy” had dropped today. 

While I’m on record as a huge Cult fan (I just saw them again in Denver this May), I have to admit I was late to this party – as I seem to be with many bands from the 80s. During the Cult’s late 80s heyday when I was in college, I was busy catching up on the Faces, the Who and Zeppelin to pay attention to such great then-current records like Love or Electric or to my embarrassment even Sonic Temple. I remember this dude I knew walking around singing “I’m a Sun King, baby, won’t you share my throne” but I just thought he was having drunken delusions of grandeur. I also vaguely remember seeing Cult videos but unfortunately every hard rock band in the 80s had identical videos on MTV. It was always them playing live on a stage, engulfed in fog. There might have been pretty girls dancing around, possibly a motorcycle or a fast car. It all blended together.

It wasn’t until I met my future wife, the Rock Chick that I really got into the Cult. On one of our first dates, we went to the CD store to shop for music. I walked out with a few CDs that day but the Rock Chick walked out with a stack almost as tall as she was… which is basically her super hero origin story… “The Rock Chick” was born. Anyway, one of those CDs that day was a greatest hits disc Pure Cult and we wore that thing out that summer drinking vodka lemonades by her apartment pool. Literally, we had to replace it. From there she led me into their great back catalog. I was stunned I’d missed out on this hard rocking band. Lead singer Ian Astbury as I soon discovered was the quintessential lead vocalist and Billy Duffy was a serious shredder on lead guitar. The rhythm section is a bit of a revolving door.. They were Zeppelin-esque. Their music had an edginess to it that left them hard to define – you can hear them on SiriusXM on both the alternative rock station and the hard rock station.

It wasn’t until their 2001 LP Beyond Good And Evil that I purchased a Cult album when it actually came out and was current. That was also the first time I saw the Cult live. It was at the Uptown Theater and remains amongst my favorite concerts. Since then the Cult have put out a string of really strong albums that can only be described as a “late career renaissance.” There was Born Into This (2007), Choice Of Weapon (2012), and the aforementioned Hidden City (2016). These guys are really rock n roll survivors. Not many rock bands whose origins stem from the 80s are still around and rocking with this much gust0 – and more importantly continuing to put out new music. 

A new upcoming Cult album, entitled Under The Midnight Sun, means a new Cult lead single from the album which leads us to the subject at hand, “Give Me Mercy.” I must confess the announcement of a new song from the Cult always fills me with rock n roll excitement. Since I’ve become a big Cult fan, basically in this millennium, each LP they’ve released has had a great first single. I still have “Rise” from that first Cult album I actually purchased, Beyond Good And Evil, in high rotation. It was a soaring rocker. Billy Duffy’s riffs are fast and furious. Ian Astbury’s vocal takes me to the sky when I hear him sing, “You have wings up on your back and you can fly.” It’s a track that should be automatically on any new greatest hits album they consider doing.

Born Into This had the great, great first single “Dirty Little Rock Star.” It was one of my wife’s friend Nancy’s favorite songs. She used to quote the line, “You sick little hipster” when she’d come over and drink wine with us. God, I miss her. “Dirty Little Rock Star” continued the Cult’s hot streak of lead singles in grand fashion. It had a great bass line and a cool start/stop guitar. Duffy’s guitar sounded like a machine gun being fired at random intervals. “You bite your lip baby, you shake your hips babe, you taste the whip babe come on… you wanna be a Dirty Little Rock Star…” I mean if that doesn’t get you up on your feet holding a lighter over you’re head nothing will.

The next lead single, from Choice Of Weapon, was “For The Animals.” I remember seeing them perform the song live on (I believe) the Jimmy Kimmel Show. They had a stage set up in the parking lot and they rawked!! “For The Animals” is an old school, fast paced, meet me at the finish line rocker. It would have fit nicely on Electric. They followed their trend of hard rocking first singles with “Dark Energy” from their last LP Hidden City. It’s got driving drums from John Tempesta whose been manning the kit on drums for the Cult since Born Into This. The song has a great bridge with keyboards (which were a new texture for the Cult) and Ian wailing the lyrics “Defend the magic, Defend the beauty.”

That’s a pretty good track record for lead singles over the last 20 years. “Give Me Mercy” continues the trend of great first songs, but even I will admit it has more of a mid-tempo feel than some of the hard, hard rockers the Cult usually put out as their first track. The song starts off with a great riff from Duffy then the music goes quiet and Ian starts singing – man that voice is so amazing – “I wish it were different, it all ends the same, your savage heart, has stolen my name.” Then Billy and Tempesta kick back in with that great riff. It has that loud to quiet to loud pattern that so many great rock songs have. It seems Astbury is appealing to a lover at the end for mercy but one could easily apply this song to society in general… we could all use more mercy.

I think this is a great song, I’ve spent all morning listening to it on repeat. They’ve even gone so far as to release a video. I don’t usually comment on these things but I love the silhouette of Billy with his guitar at the start of the video  – it takes me back to the cover of Sonic Temple. And, there are a few shots of Ian with his very cool long hair down which I haven’t seen in a long time. Here’s the video so you can hear the track:

This is a track I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. From what I understand the band recorded it in the UK and Ian was in New York so had to do his vocals remotely. One has to wonder what that will do for the chemistry of the band but these guys have been together so long I doubt it’ll be a factor. And, if this first track is any indication, I think it’s going to be a rocking fall when Under The Midnight Sky comes out. Rumor has it they are really shooting for more of a Love and/or Dreamtime sound on this record and who doesn’t love that?

Turn this one up loud and enjoy!! Cheers!

 

Review: The Cult Live In Denver 5/06/22 – The Mission Ballroom – Ian Astbury Shines During Sluggish Show

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*Photo taken by the Rock Chick

I spent today, Sunday, driving across the plains of Kansas on my way back from seeing my daughter in Denver… Well, seeing my daughter and the Cult in Denver. I can tell the pandemic is starting to thaw out a bit as my dance card in Denver was completely full. The last few times I’ve been in Denver we really didn’t go out and do much. It was quality family time. Not so this trip. I was doing something almost constantly. And there was the Cult concert slipped into the middle of the schedule Friday night at the Mission Ballroom for just the Rock Chick and me. I didn’t know much about the Mission Ballroom but it’s a fantastic venue. I’d go back to that place in a heartbeat. Plenty of bars, plenty of bathrooms and not a bad seat in the house. This is one of the few times I’ve seen the Cult and actually had a seat. I didn’t go for my usual General Admission floor tickets this time as typically some hulking mountain of a guy ends up standing in front of the Rock Chick who is considerably less… vertical than I am. There aren’t many people who can block my view. We were excited to be on guitarist Billy Duffy’s side of the stage.

Driving across the fruited plains all day – where there is literally nothing to see – gave me a chance to ponder the show I’d seen Friday while I killed the road time listening to the new Chili Peppers album, Rush’s 40th celebration of Moving Pictures and a few episodes of an old crime podcast… we do love our Murder & Mayhem stories here at B&V. The opening act for the Cult was a band I was unfamiliar with, King Woman (editor’s note: the opener was misidentified in an earlier version as Des Rocs). I’ve seen an interesting array of bands opening for the Cult as I’ve been to over half a dozen Cult shows since 2001. The most entertaining opener was probably Monster Magnet at that first Cult show I saw on the Beyond Good And Evil tour. I seem to recall leather clad dancers on stage. I can’t say King Woman was entertaining at all. I got there mid-set and they were performing without a spotlight on the singer. It was all backlit in red. I couldn’t see the face of the band members but especially the lead singer, a lady who seems pretty angry and she was rolling around on stage in the dark. They ended with a cover of the Stone Roses’ “I Want To Be Adored” that was frankly, unrecognizable.

By 9:40 the Cult came onto the stage. The current line up is Ian Astbury (vocals), Billy Duffy (guitar), John Tempesta (drums), Grant Fitzpatrick (bass) [editor’s note: on bass it may have been Charlie Jones] and inexplicably Damon Fox (keyboards/backing vocals). The Cult definitely don’t need a keyboard player. They used to tour with an extra guitar player which made a lot more sense to me. There are very few things I can count on in life – but the Cult live in concert are one of them. They are always MONEY on stage. The fact these guys always bring it live is one of the reasons I fell in love with the band. I had taken the liberty of glancing at the set list prior to the show and while I didn’t have it memorized – I couldn’t remember what they opened with – I was excited about it. It was front loaded with a bunch of songs from Sonic Temple, probably their most famous, commercially successful album. As I’ve said, I’m so into the Cult I like whatever they play but I missed the tour pre-Covid where they played Sonic Temple in it’s entirety. I was sidelined by a foot injury. I’d previously seen the “complete album shows” for Love and Electric so that was pretty disappointing. While I’d have been quite content if they’d come out and opened with 8 tracks from Hidden City I was glad I was making up for missing that last tour.

Thank god I couldn’t remember what the opener was because I was delighted and surprised when I heard the opening notes of “Sun King.” It’s one of my favorites. After two years of virtually no concerts save for a surprise trip to Starlight Theater to see Joan Jett/Cheap Trick I couldn’t help but think, “Finally!” Immediately the Rock Chick noticed that they sounded off. It took me a few riffs in to realize they sounded a little sluggish. Maybe they need to burn off some of that Covid rust? The Rock Chick also noticed that Ian Astbury’s vocals were a little off as well – he changed out his microphone midway through the main set so I’ll give her credit there. The list was heavily weighted to Sonic Temple. The entire show, save for “Rise” from Beyond Good And Evil was from Love, Electric or Sonic Temple or as some might say “their prime.” Maybe the fact that they aren’t touring behind a new album brought less enthusiasm from the group. Maybe it’s the new bass player and keyboard player. Chemistry in a band is important.

The main issue, upon reflection as I drove through golden fields of wheat spotted with green fields of beans and milo and the requisite rural frightful political signs, might have been as simple as one guy: Billy Duffy. I think Billy is one of those great, underrated guitar Gods out there. Although I have to say, he seemed bored. He wasn’t terribly engaged. Or maybe he’s just always sounded better with a second guitarist on stage with him. I was on his side of the stage and he almost seemed distracted. He kept looking up toward the balcony seats, just to our right. We were on his side, only 2 sections out from the stage. The Rock Chick says I’m crazy but at first I thought he was looking up at the giant stack of speakers floating above his head like he was afraid they were going to fall. His guitar was loud and he plays powerfully but he was just playing slower than usual. Tom Petty always called live albums “playing your greatest hits really fast.” This was the opposite of that.

As I said, they opened with a bunch of Sonic Temple tracks. The only track that the keyboard player really had an impact on – to my ears anyway – was “Sweet Soul Sister.” It was nice to have the organ. They had a little mellow breakdown in the middle where Ian addressed the crowd. He was referencing psychedelics, perhaps inspired by Colorado’s pot laws. He told a guy in the front row “Hey man, you can’t text from the front row… you’re in the front row that comes with certain responsibilities,” which I thought was funny. At one time he exhorted the crowd to “Smoke em if you got em.” He also said something about the people filming the show on their phones, calling them out as “Kurosawa, Spielberg and Coppola.” Hey man, if you’re not used to being filmed at this point, I’ve got bad news for you. I mean, I get it. I shake my head at people at a concert who experience it through their phones. I took maybe 3 pictures and put my phone on mute and into my pocket.

Despite that seemingly slightly hostile banter, I have to say Astbury was on fire that night. It’s like he sensed the rest of the band was sluggish and he was determined to put them on his shoulders and carry them through the night. He is one of the best front men and singers in the business. What a voice! He moved around the stage like a man half his age. He’s always active but I hadn’t seen him move that much on stage since the first few Cult shows I saw over 20 years ago. He looked lean and very into it. He gave out his sole tambourine to a kid near the stage who he called “Youngblood” because the kid had a Pink Floyd The Wall t-shirt on. “We’ve gotta teach these young-bloods right!”

As the band slogged through the Sonic Temple material and Astbury tried to pump them up, they hit a high point on “Edie (Ciao Baby).” That ballad soared. I will admit that when they shifted to some of the songs on Electric the band got better – in my opinion, this is disputed by the Rock Chick. “Li’l Devil” was a track where I felt everything clicked for the band. It was a real highlight. They followed that up with two more great tracks from Electric, “Peace Dog” and “Wildflower” which were also highlights. The Love material at the end of the set was also great and included a rocking version “Rain” and “Revolution,” a track Astbury described as “more relevant now than ever.” I love “She Sells Sanctuary” but it did miss that second guitarist.

The main set ended with “Love Removal Machine” another knock out moment of the night. The Electric stuff just sounded better but then as my friend Stormin’ said to me once, “I’m an Electric guy.” I was thrilled that “Rise,” one of their most underrated songs from the late career resurgence, made it into the encore. As I said, it’s the only non Love-Electric-Sonic Temple track they played. In retrospect I’d have liked to hear “Dirty Little Rock Star” or “For The Animals” just to break it up a bit. Maybe they could have thrown in Hidden City’s Hinterland.” But I’m probably splitting hairs. The faithful, myself included, still went nuts for the final track, a rousing “Fire Woman.” It was so good to be in a crowd, shoulder to shoulder with strangers, sharing that communal, ecstatic moment during a concert.

And with that the night was over. While it was a bit of a disappointing show, I’d still go see the Cult again. I’d like to see them on this tour again actually. I just think I caught Billy Duffy on a bad night. But it was still made special by Ian Astbury absolutely bringing his A game. As I am fond of saying, Life is short, buy the ticket, see the show.

Cheers!

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!

 

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, “Hinterland”, The 3rd Song From the Upcoming “Hidden City”

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A third song, “Hinterland” from the upcoming Cult album “Hidden City” has been released and let me just say, “wow”. With all due respect to David Bowie and Elton John who both have albums coming out soon (Bowie tomorrow, Elton in February), The Cult’s “Hidden City” is my most anticipated album of 2016. I had promised myself, after reviewing the first two songs from this album as they came out, that I’d wait for the entire album’s release before I wrote anything further. This song is just too great to not comment on it.

Each of the three songs that have been released thus far feel like pieces of a puzzle. With each song the puzzle gets a little clearer. This is going to be a heavy album. Each of the songs have Billy Duffy’s trademark, enormous guitar riffs. Of the three songs thus far released, this one has the best guitar solo. I love that Duffy plays a Gretsch White Falcon…good craftsman work with good tools. If I was going to compare it to a more recent album, “Beyond Good and Evil” springs to mind. If I was to compare it to an older, classic record, from a sound perspective, I’d say “Electric”.

This record and particularly the new song “Hinterland” are not only “heavy” musically, they’re heavy lyrically as well. The chorus of “Hinterland” goes, “the dream of life is fading, each generation’s fading”. The “Dark Energy” of the lead single (reviewed previously on BourbonAndVinyl) is proving to be present in each of the subsequent singles. Another theme in the lyrics is the repeated line, “Destroy the destroyers”. Ian’s lyrics are always a bit opaque to me. I struggle for a while to discern where he’s going in his lyrics. It’s clear to me on this song, and the others, that this album is a direct warning to society. Astbury sings with a passion and clarity on this song that is hypnotic in it’s urgency.

I can not wait for this album. This song is a must have for any Cult or hard rock fans out there. Check out the new song and it’s video (available on YouTube) and as always, enjoy!

Cheers!

 

 

Review: The Cult, “Deeply Ordered Chaos”, the 2nd single from “Hidden City”

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Is this the Western dream, defend our liberty…”

For me, one of the most anticipated albums of early 2016 is “Hidden City” from the Cult, due in February. I’ve already reviewed the first single of the album, “Dark Energy” in a separate post on BourbonAndVinyl. I have to admit that even though that song has no chorus that I can discern, “Dark Energy” has really grown on me. I would have mixed Ian’s vocals a little higher in the mix, but the interplay between Billy Duffy’s (almost a hard rock Bo Diddley-like) guitar and  John Tempesta’s drums is addictive. The Cult have a history in this millennium of releasing kick-ass first singles, so “Dark Energy” had a lot to live up to in my mind.

On Monday afternoon, while still recovering from the wife’s Christmas party, much to my surprise, I discovered the Cult released a second song from “Hidden City” on iTunes entitled “Deeply Ordered Chaos”. Let me start by saying, wow. Actually listening to both songs together, I feel like I’m looking at two pieces from the same puzzle – they fit together but I’m not sure what the entire whole is going to be like. Which is great news after the slightly disjointed way they released the songs on “Choice of Weapon”, their last outing.

“Deeply Ordered Chaos” starts with a slow build. Like “Dark Energy” it starts with an epic Billy Duffy guitar riff. The riff is slower than “Dark Energy” and I would almost describe it as “ominous.” I mean that in a good way. After the slow build guitar entry, Ian Astbury’s vocals begin, “I’m a European, tears fall on the altar.”  Once I heard that, I was hooked. I really love this song. There are some restrained strings between the guitar riffs that add to that ominous vibe.

The lyrics support the darker feel of the song. Ian sings of Europe, tears on the altar, Syria must fall. In the middle of the song, he drops to a quietly spoken line, “A child of liberty opened my eyes, defend Paris…” Surely this song was written and recorded long before the heinous attacks on Paris on November 13th, but the entire vibe of the lyrics make this song a perfect backdrop to current events. When Ian sings, “Who you looking at, who you dreaming of, What you leave behind?” it evokes the current-day tension like a screaming headline. Clearly I don’t think the Cult are advocating any kind of retribution here, but are merely capturing a mood. Like all good artists they are likely reflecting the environment they find themselves in. Think Dylan in the 60’s writing “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” right before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Artists have more sensitive antennae than the rest of us.

While I was slightly disappointed with “Dark Energy”, it has grown on me quickly. “Deeply Ordered Chaos” (and by the way, I love that title) hooked me immediately. The song hit me in the lower brain stem and took hold. It’s been on high rotation here at the house for two days now. I was going to wait until the album comes out next year to comment on this song, but it’s a tune that every rock fan needs to hear. I couldn’t wait until February to say something.

Listening to both the new Cult songs together only builds my anticipation for the new album, “Hidden City”. It’ll be interesting to hear how these songs translate live. Typically I have to fly to Denver or Chicago to see the Cult. Oh sure, I’d love to fly to the UK to catch the late February/early March tour of the UK, but alas I’ll have to wait to they come state-side.

Turn this one up loud… and as always, Cheers!