Thursday, May 18, 2006
Plaza of Nations
Vancouver, BC Canada
**Review & Live Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
One of the more unexpected but no less welcomed reunions of last year had to be long-running British goth/hard rock vets, The Cult. After releasing albums regularly between 1984 and 1994, the band split up and came back for the extremely underrated album, BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, in 2001 before once again disbanding. Vocalist Ian Astbury kept himself busy as “Jim Morrison” with The Doors of The 21st Century (AKA Riders On the Storm) while guitarist Billy Duffy was most recently seen jamming with Jerry Cantrell in the L.A.-based covers band, Cardboard Vampyres. Then, out of the blue, it was announced that The Cult would be recording new music and then hitting the road for a lengthy North American and European tour. The first leg of the “Return To The Wild” tour was fairly low-key and to be honest, I didn’t put much interest into it. Then, it was announced that The Cult would be kicking off a seven-date Canadian tour here in Vancouver before heading off to Europe for the summer. Since it had been 17 years since I last saw them—they had a rather unceremonious welcome in Calgary opening for Metallica on the …AND JUSTICE FOR ALL tour—I knew I couldn’t miss this show. I had been a fan since the ELECTRIC album in 1987 (sorry, I wasn’t “cult”—pardon the pun—enough to have followed the band from their early days as fey Goths) and followed their career fairly closely, peaking with 1989’s Vancouver-recorded SONIC TEMPLE. 1991’s CEREMONY was a major step down and the self-titled 1994 release was a shadow of the former band but in terms of nostalgia, you can’t go wrong with songs like “Revolution,” “Wild Flower,” “Fire Woman,” “She Sells Sanctuary” and “Love Removal Machine.”
I missed the two opening bands—The Bangkok Five and Toronto’s Controller Controller—but The Cult hit the stage promptly at 9:20 for their 100-minute set to the sound of the intro to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Opting for a low-key stage set up with a simple black silk backdrop with the tour’s tiger/lightning bolt logo, the clear, warm night was perfect for a loud, outdoor rock and roll show. The Plaza of Nations is a cavernous glass building that resembles a giant greenhouse which sits right on the edge of the water in the middle of downtown Vancouver. Dragon boaters, cyclists, joggers, yuppies and bookworms populated the exterior grounds but once The Cult hit the stage, any peaceful serenity was instantly washed away. The vast architecture of the venue coupled with the fact it is outdoors never bodes well for the soundman. What can best be described as a mucky pastiche of treble-heavy noise plagued the band’s first four or five songs before things finally got remedied. Astbury no longer sports the flowing black hair he once did. Instead, he resembles a squirrelly-eyed mountain man with a scraggly beard and short hair hidden beneath a skull cap. Duffy, despite some age lines in his face, still looks remarkably fit. His mixed bag of hard rock and rock-a-billy riffs were spot on, while Astbury’s voice, a bit shaky at times, still delivered. He did rely on a binder of lyrics that was carefully concealed beneath his stage monitors, which surprised me given the fact The Cult had been back for some time. His Lizard King mannerisms were still present at points, most notably his short trance-like, Native-inspired dance with a tambourine during “Sweet Soul Sister.” The vocalist was fresh off surgery on his leg so he apologized for not being able to jump around a lot but offered plenty of “contained energy.” Astbury and Duffy have essentially been the core of the band since the beginning with studio musicians and a revolving door of players coming and going over the years. Duffy noted at one point that he was “glad to be back on stage with the man I’ve known over half my adult life.” The backing band on this tour included rhythm guitarist Mike Dimkitch, who remained out of the spotlight and even played off-stage, while bassist Chris Wyse and John Tempesta (ex-Testament, White Zombie) thundered out the bottom end. Duffy mentioned this was the band’s first gig in awhile but they seemed incredibly tight and hardly rusty. Stage banter was aplenty since Astbury spent his teenage years living in Canada and the band spent a good deal of time writing and recording in Vancouver.
All the “hits” were played as well as several rarities/fan favourites were also dusted off. Riots would have ensued had tracks like “Wild Flower,” “Fire Woman,” “She Sells Sanctuary” and “Love Removal Machine” were not played however an unplugged version of “Edie (Ciao Baby)” featuring only Astbury and Duffy was met with mixed results. Even though Duffy warned the crowd beforehand that they were “acoustic virgins,” the dramatic swells of the original were certainly missed. “Libertine,” taken from the Japanese import of BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, “The Phoenix,” “In The Clouds” and “Electric Ocean” were clearly for the die-hard fans more familiar with the band’s back catalogue but once the instantly recognizable opening riff of “Fire Woman” chimed through the speakers, the liquored-up casual fans in the cordoned-off beer garden let out a barrage of appreciative whoops. The dancing continued through “She Sells Sanctuary” and a stunning version of set-closer “Love Removal Machine.” Astbury’s cries of “bay-bay, bay-bay, bay-bay, bay-bay” and Duffy’s blistering solo sent chills down my spine, taking me back to seeing the video for the first time way back in eleventh grade. “The Witch,” “Lil’ Devil” and “Spiritwalker” were personal highlights but I was saddened that “Rain” was not part of the set.
The Vancouver crowd seemed a bit subdued (Duffy hollered in frustration at one point, “You paid your 43 dollars and 50 fucking Canadian cents! Come on!”) but the fact that it was a nice night and the beer was flowing seemed to be of more interest than getting excited for a veteran band giving it their all on stage. Whatever the reason, The Cult is back and has put together a solid show that focuses on the music without any fancy-pants lightshows or gimmicky nonsense to drive the point home. For those who cared enough to pay attention, The Cult rocked then and they still rock now.
Sweet Soul Sister
In The Clouds
Brother Wolf, Sister Moon
Edie (Ciao Baby)
She Sells Sanctuary
Love Removal Machine
The Cult—official site