Someday Ian Astbury and the boys might be able to play a concert based on scads of new material. Until then, the diehards who grew up on “She Sells Sanctuary” and “Wild Flower” will be well and happy with shows coming off as little more than greatest hits packages, peppered by a new song here and there.
Fans who caught The Cult’s limited tour run in 1999 heard just about every song to ever reach “hit” status and, with the recent release of Beyond Good and Evil, the band’s first album in over seven years, it seems they’re back to the same old thing. Still, that’s not necessarily a strike against it; if anything, it’s a plus.
Astbury was in top form as The Man in Black (black exercise garb, that is) during The Cult’s stop in Salt Lake City, proving that a lead singer can shake the tambourine, dance like hyperactive Indian, and still come off as extremely cool. But it’s not what drew the audience in as much as his roar of a voice, one that proved—despite numerous microphone troubles—he is very much at the top of his game. This despite the fact “Sweet Soul Sister”, for one, came out in accentuated bursts and lost some of the words in the delivery. If they really are back for the long haul, it’s Ian’s enormous vocals that are going to lead them there, with Billy Duffy’s heavy guitar riffing not far behind.
While Ian all but dismissed the band’s disbanding in the mid-‘90s—“We needed to take a break, especially if we’re going to be doing this for another 10, 20, 30 thousand years!”—he promoted the new stuff only sporadically. “Rise”, its current radio hit, served as the opener, but with a steady stream of hits following immediately thereafter—“In the Clouds”, “Lil’ Devil”, “Peace Dog”, “Rain”, “Edie (Ciao Baby)”, and “Witch”—it was certain The Cult was more eager to please the diehards rather than the budding fans.
And, recalling The Cult’s last visit to Salt Lake (when Ian still had a mane he could lay claim to) when security guards tossed members of the audience off the stage like they were rag dolls, Ian invited them to do the same once again—to make security work for their money. Many tried. Few succeeded. However, during the encore that began with “War (The Process)” and ended with a hard-hitting extended “Love Removal Machine”, one stalwart stage diver made it halfway there. With an overzealous security guard at his heels and Ian pulling at his hands, Ian won the fight, congratulating the victor with a brief hug.
While they may be aging (Astbury on the eve of his 40th), this performance showed that, while The Cult may have been down for the count, these Brits certainly aren’t dead yet. Here’s hoping they’ll choose to stick around a bit longer this time.