I finally saw The Cult perform on their Electric 13 Tour last night in support of their Choice of Weapon album to a capacity crowd at the new Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was the first time I had ever seen them despite them being around since the early 1980s.
Two of the original founding members of The Cult lead singer Ian Astbury and lead guitarist Billy Duffy played along with bassist Chris Wyse – known for his work with Jerry Cantrell, Mick Jagger, and Ozzy Osbourne; drummer John Tempesta who also has played drums for White Zombie; and rhythm guitarist James Stevenson previously of The Alarm, Gene Loves Jezebel, and Generation X. They all looked and sounded great. As one audience member put it, “These guys are the last great real rock ‘n roll bands who channel ACDC, The Doors, Joy Division, The Rolling Stones and others.” It was quite a special night having such a group of talented and accomplished musicians take the stage together.
The Cult opened with “Wild Flower” with Astbury taking the stage last with loud applause. Right after the first song, Astbury wisely told the crowd to, “Put down your phones and enjoy the show!”
Lead guitarist Duffy stood to the right of the stage, Astbury in the middle, and the rhythm guitarist Stevenson far left with the bassist Wyse between him and Astbury. The drummer Tempesta was in the middle back. Astbury would go back to the drummer set during musical interludes to joke around like he was about to sit on the drum set or grab water. The set was simplistic, with cool images coming up for everyone song. A lot of the images were religious based and arts based. Astbury described Carvaggio, whose painting was shown, as a genius.
Like an opera singer, Astbury filters the air with liquid a lot when he sings and he half-apologized for that with an unprintable, funny joke. His singing is strong, forceful and deep and with the cold air in the club, I get the expectoration. He swings the mike expertly while dancing to the songs.
Duffy as usual showed his amazing axe skills during the songs, especially during “Love Removal Machine,” which is known for its great riffs. Crowd pleasers were the Cult’s other commercial hits: “Sweet Soul Sister,” “Lucifer,” “She Sells Sanctuary,” “Spiritwalker,” and” Sun King.” Astbury’s voice sounded strong, especially during the second set and the encore, and with the song “She Sells Sanctuary.” Bassist Wyse hit all the right notes and Tempesta was fierce on the drums, significantly for the song “Outlaw.” Rock veteran Stevenson provided excellent riffs alongside Duffy’s with his backing vocals and spiky hair. The songs flowed effortlessly together with Astbury mainly looking straight ahead and during brief song breaks flirted with the crowd.
Astbury has his famous black long hair back, the hair Madonna said she admired. He seemed to be wearing his own fashion designs. He came out on stage wearing his rock style all black and a jacket with white fringe and black pants and black boots. He kept his black glasses on stage for most of the time and his hair up until the encore. During the second set he changed to a shirt with a jacket that had “Wounded Knee Wilderness” emblazoned on the back of his jacket.
The enigmatic Astbury channels Jim Morrison of The Doors from wearing dark glasses to quoting poetry during his songs to doing homage to the Native Americans with his jacket and his songs. In addition, Astbury toured with the reformed Doors several years ago and was considered as the lead for the movie about The Doors. Astbury comes across as deep, intense, thoughtful, and playful.
He smacked the hell out of the tambourine and sent half a dozen of them into the crowd, one towards me, but I butterfingered it. Astbury was throwing tambourines all over the place, either towards the crowd or back onto the stage. One guy was so grateful for the tambourine he gave Astbury a $130 Catholic necklace of a saint. Astbury humbly accepted and said, “Thank you brother.” I asked the gift-giver if Astbury was religious and the guy replied, “Not sure, but maybe I’ll convert him to Catholicism!”
This was an amazing show and definitely a chapter in history to see one of the last amazing rock bands around. They will be in Philadelphia this Sunday, September 25th, if you missed them in the DC area.
Here was The Cult’s set according to fm.com:
Set 1: (Electric album)
1. Wild Flower
2. Peace Dog
3. Lil’ Devil
4. Aphrodisiac Jacket
5. Electric Ocean
6. Bad Fun
7. King Contrary Man
8. Love Removal Machine
9. Zap City
11. Memphis Hip Shake
13. Honey from a Knife
14. Sweet Soul Sister
17. The Phoenix
19. For the Animals
20. She Sells Sanctuary
22. Sun King
Running Time: 2.5 hours, with two five-minute intermissions.
The Cult website.