Better than: Flying to New York for a Killing Joke show and having the band cancel last minute.
The Cult's frontman, Ian Astbury, is a firm believer in the sanctity of music in a live setting. In a time when more than a handful of the Cult's contemporaries are happy to press "play" on a series of canned backing tracks, wallow about in their history on stage, and take your money, the Cult has managed to make each show a truly special and unique experience. Last night's Revolution Live show was rife with the sort of unexpected moments that just don't seem to happen at rock shows anymore. The walls and corridors were lined with the Cult's faithful flock. They gathered to pay homage to one of the band's most revered works, Electric, and to bask in the presence of a proper rock band reaching for a higher vibration.
Opening for the Cult was a psychedelic rock band from New York by the name of White Hills. The trio attempted to take the rowdy crowd on a journey to the outer reaches of spacey psychedelia via its brand of guitar driven psych. Frontman, Dave W, donned a mask of silver paint and played burning and adventurous guitar solos that nodded toward the '70s most heroic fuzz gods. Bass player, Ego Sensation -- decked out in a pair red sequined bell-bottoms and a velour shirt with fringed sleeves -- thumped away at heady rhythms on her plexiglass Dan Armstrong bass, successfully holding down the fort (space station?) during W's guitar led astral wanderings. The band won over the initially impatient crowd with its theatrical sounds and look.
The Cult took the stage looking like a bunch of rock 'n' roll mystics that had been swept in by the wind. They proceeded to kick the night into high gear with the percussive opening chords of "Wildflower." Astbury stood before the riotous crowd, an unflappable pillar of confidence greeting his constituents with the shake of a tambourine as he slowly worked his way into the state of transcendence necessary for a proper Cult performance. By the time the band reached the chant portion of "Peace Dog," the audience was at a fever pitch. The band had found its footing, seeding an energy in the room that truly was electric, if you will.
The Electric set continued with Astbury ironically asking the audience to "cool it down a bit" with a nod, and what we'd like to think was a wink, between songs. Throughout the night, Astbury nonchalantly flung tambourines at the audience, punctuating his lyrics with his trademark animalistic barks and grunts.
Billy Duffy was an absolute monster throughout the affair, crunching out bone-shaking chords from a low slung Les Paul and lacing songs with intricate lines of delayed guitar and muscular solos. The solo Duffy played during "Love Removal Machine" was a particularly raucous event, colored with shades of Jimmy Page, but replete with Duffy's own, inimitable swagger. The Electric set did not include the cover of "Born to be Wild" that appears on the album, but was happily replaced by "Zap City," a live staple from the formerly unreleased Peace album that was intended to precede Electric.
Aside from the abandoned tossing of what had to be a baker's dozen tambourines at the audience, Astbury's interaction with fans was unique to say the least. At one point, a man seated in the VIP section was enjoying a piece of cake when he caught the singer's eye. Astbury calmly walked over, leaned towards the man and returned to the stage with the piece of cake, where he enjoyed a few bites during one of Duffy's guitar outings before handing the cake back. However, there was an exchange that occurred at the end of the Electric set that was a bit less cordial.
A crowd member in the front row had rested his head upon the barricade and appeared to be sleeping or texting. From our vantage point, it appeared he had his phone shining up at him from beneath the barricade. Astbury walked to the edge of the stage, took a sip of water and spit it upon the resting crowd members head, resulting in an exchange of "fuck yous" and an empty water bottle being thrown back at Astbury. The audience member was ejected and Astbury called him out on his texting, saying "It is ignorant and rude, this is a rock show, not your office." While it might seem aggressive on Astbury's part, the guy takes his performances that seriously.
Following a brief intermission featuring an art film vignette, Billy Duffy strapped on his signature model Grestch White Falcon and cracked into fan favorite, "Rain." Things picked up where they had left off. But the energy had expanded from a romp through the tracks of a beloved album to a more immediate experience with a band working on a level beyond just performance. Duffy played solos at nearby audience members, bassist, Chris Wyse, was so caught in the sway of performance that he accidentally kicked a monitor off the stage. The audience continually howled back at Astbury's every animal call and lyric.
"She Sells Sanctuary" ended the proper set, and it was then, of course, that the audience lost complete control. The night ended with Astbury thanking the crowd for their respect, and explaining: "We have no entitlement. It is an honor to play for you. It is a fucking privilege." The final encore of "Sun King" ended with a rosary hitting the stage next to Astbury and a band made up of actual rock stars that appeared to be as elated as they were exhausted.
Personal Bias: Fan of the Cult. Fan of any band that holds true to itself.
Overheard: "Did Electric 13 play yet" - From the mouth of a claimed representative of a local radio station, misconstruing the name of the tour for that of an opening act.
Random Detail: Astbury used the term "selfies" in one of his diatribes. Lol.