Cage the Elephant, Manchester Orchestra Verizon Wireless Theater May 27, 2011
Cage the Elephant are nuts.
Like their music or not, you're guaranteed to have a good time at any of their live performances. The band's energy level is unparalleled by almost any other mainstream group and, put simply, they are a force to be reckoned with onstage.
From the onset of Friday night's show, vocalist Matt Shultz had fans screaming at the top of their lungs. He kept the enthusiasm level high for the entire evening, running from the back of the stage to its edge every few verses, as fans held their arms high in the air, ready to catch him if he chose to jump into the crowd.
Unfortunately, he never made the leap, but it didn't break anyone's heart, and it didn't take away from Cage's hard-hitting stage presence, led by Shultz's onstage persona.
As far as we can tell, it's a combination of the Drunken Monkey fighting style and perhaps a few sips of bourbon, the kind his home state of Kentucky is so well known for.
So what kind of music do Cage the Elephant make? It's a good question, but you'll be hard pressed to find a simple answer. It's most definitely rock, but getting any more specific than that would only put boundaries around it, and if you didn't already know, their musical style is limitless.
That's how it seems, at least, judging from the two albums they have released so far.
Their self-titled debut album was so refreshing, it was almost unreal. No Autotune or contrived vocal effects were layered on Shultz's voice to make up for a lack of talent. And even if someone had suggested as much, his style isn't exactly Autotune-friendly.
Schultz's lyricism, vocal style and stage presence are far from orthodox, at least compared to most modern-day music. Instead of focusing on hitting all the notes and making sure his words are intelligible, his voice - and Cage's music as a whole - is all about how it feels.
Does it need to feel raw? Then it does. Does it need to feel soft? Then it does. Does it just need to rock? Oh, it always does.
Perhaps it's that catchy jingle about how unkind it is for a woman to run around Shultz's head all night, or maybe it's the one about people not listening to the messages in his songs and writing him off as another crazy radical who should have stayed in school.
Or maybe it's that soft, sweet ballad "Shake Me Down," about keeping one's head up.
Or, just maybe, it isn't just one thing that makes Cage the Elephant so much fun - it's a combination of a number of vastly different things, blended together in a way that gives every song its own taste while keeping a flavor that could only be Cage.
That's got to be it.
Manchester Orchestra, meanwhile, put on a great show too, but in a dissimilar way. While Cage focused more on stage presence and hyping up the crowd, Manchester's show relied much more on musicianship as a whole.
The group sped up many of its songs, we assume in an attempt to keep pace with Cage, but fans and newcomers alike had something to cheer about as Andy Hull's whiny, raspy voice soared above the group's music.
Manchester's performance was solid, but Cage stole the show.
And while we aren't interested in visiting the group's hometown in Kentucky any time soon - so sue us, we're city boys 'round here - we are exciting to see something so true to rock and roll, yet so innovative, getting so much attention.
It may be a little rough on the ears at times, but if you listen to the words, you'll find a message underneath it all.
Personal Bias: Not all of CTE's songs sound quite the way we'd like them to, but that's half the fun of their music. They march to their own beat, and damn it if they don't have a lot of fun doing so.
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SHOW ME HOW
Overheard In the Crowd: "Smile... Smiiiiiiiile"; "Just take the fucking picture!"
Random Notebook Dump: As we were walking into Verizon, we wondered aloud why more homeless people didn't hang out in the underground parking garage, because there's minimum security and a copious amount of space. Seconds later, we made eye contact with a homeless man who was relieving himself in a nearby bush.