The Cult, The Black Ryder House of Blues October 1, 2010
See photos from the Cult's leather-clad performance in our slideshow.
So it goes that as the years pass, a band's worth and status gets continuously reevaluated. For the past week, Aftermath had been pondering The Cult's place in the grand scheme of things, asking people who were there the first time around just what, as they remembered, the band meant during its heyday.
For once, we were very much admitting that we can't and don't know about everything. Some bands just plain elude us, without altogether turning us off. Even after watching everything we could on YouTube and reading shreds of blurbs from the past 25 years, we still couldn't get a bead on the band. Were they hard rock, New Wave metal, goth-rock, intelligent hair metal or all of the above in special ratios?
Knowing all the MTV and poisonously hooky radio singles didn't tell the whole story, at least not to us. We sort of got a Danzig/Lizard King vibe off lead singer Ian Astbury, coupled with the band's earthy Killing Joke-style sound, which seemed to be obsessed with Native Americans instead of decay and devoid of Jaz Coleman's smirk.
Public opinions we culled ranged from "they started out in left field and then became an AC/DC cover band," to "pre-goth but enough metal edge; escaped easy categorization. Hot female fans. Rabid fans. Good live show," and what seemed like the prevailing idea: "The Cult = meh."
The Cult ending up selling out House of Blues on Friday night, packing the hall with yes, hot female fans, and yes, rabid male fans. Astbury and the only member of band left from their golden age, guitarist Billy Duffy, reeled out the hits, some career nuggets, and some new work from a gestating album.
Almost from the beginning, Astbury seemed bothered and slowed. Sure, the years can take a toll, but his curmudgeonry didn't come off as finely-aged piss and vinegar as much as pure agitation.
Starting with the brand-new and extremely catchy "Everyman And Woman Is a Star," Astbury stalked his quadrant between the mike and the drum set most of the night, leaning against the stand in leather jacket and gloves, clutching his tambourine. The Morrison thing makes more sense now than it ever did in the '80s.
Think Jimbo after leaving Paris in 1972, with a wicked hankering for ribs. The voice was still there, though, howling over the band as they cut into tracks from their first four albums. Not as lithe, more than a few clicks gruffer, and with an ever more pronounced blues-tinge.
"Rain" and "Sweet Soul Sister" came as a package deal, getting folks out of their comfy balcony seats with their fists in the air. It was then that we had our "a-ha" moment of the night. The Cult, mostly their hits, made them a stripper band.
Like for late '80s to early '90s high-waisted lingerie strippers, the kind that Vince and Tommy would have used once and destroyed during the high-water Motley years. The crowd was just a sea of tanned and leathery implants, with embroidered-print button-ups and tousled office hair throwing down the plastic for a Bud Light.
That was probably when it sunk in exactly what the Cult was and forever will be. High aspirations to be this mystical outfit, fighting for Native American rights, sold instead onto the radio and MTV as raunchy fuck-rock for people scared to own a Harley but wanting to look the part. But we were fine with that. Like we said, it's not a turnoff in the least. It's not the band's fault and we can still bang our heads to the long-mix of "She Sells Sanctuary" without shame.
The packed crowd wasn't about to upstaged either by Astbury and Duffy. The lead singer routinely called people out for texting while in the pit, at one point throwing his tambourine at a bystander. One drunk was kicked out before the band even came on for dry-humping walls and women.
He spent five minutes trying to read the four words on our shirt at one point. The inebriated were fighting security, with one even going at it with the valet peeps out front. Screw them for parking your car for you, right?
Duffy threw a towel out to a female fan, only for it to be wrestled away from her by an oaf next to her. Like a gym teacher, Duffy had to call the guy out for his dickishness and demand he give the towel to the woman.
The band closed with the trio of "Sanctuary," "Lil' Devil" and "Love Removal Machine," tacking on an extra Stooge-ish ending coda to the latter. Someone had a bouquet of roses, and the whole place smelled like sex instead of beer for a change.
The pristine slink of openers The Black Ryder, from Australia, was a tad lost on the mostly older crowd. The drone-addicted psych band reminded us a very sedated Dead Weather, with the team of Aimee Nash and Scott Von Ryper at the helm. The band's pedigree, made up of scene luminaries like the Raveonettes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, is a hefty one to live up to.
We can't wait to see them in a smaller venue to soak them in more adequately.
Personal Bias: Burly, hairy dude singing about witchy, bitchy women in a gruff baritone. Sort of been the theme of our musical life.
The Crowd: Lurching drunks of both sexes, shirtless guys, and a few younger rockers coming to pay tribute. Also, a dude and his chick dressed up like fake metal heads for some reason. He was wasting a perfectly good Metallica shirt and had painted-on sideburns. FAILburns as a friend termed them actually.
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Overheard in the Crowd: "There's a lot of titty here I don't think I can stomach seeing tonight. Or any night."
Random Notebook Dump: Watched a dude and his wife put on and tuck their just-bought Cult shirts into their jeans. Reminded us of that Bob Seger song, "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," you know? With that line "So you're a little bit older and a lot less bolder than you used to be"?