The Cult The House Of Blues, Los Angeles, CA08/16/99
Just a few months after their improvised show on LA’s Viper Room stage, THE CULT were back
together for good on the opening night of seven sold-out shows at The House Of Blues on the Sunset Strip.
Unfortunately what was going to be a long-awaited celebration could not have started out worse. I am, of course, talking about the opening act LOCAL H, where the H stands probably for Hemmoroids, considering the extreme pain in the ass they were able to provide us in the audience. With their heavy riffs and pseudo punk looks they were good enough to scare K-Mart cashiers (and rock the couple of Beavis & Butthead headbangers in the audience) but bad enough to give blues to The House. While the punky-style bassist spent most of the gig waving his arms (he wasn't that busy playing), the guitarist tried to overpower Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits. As for the songs, you couldn't help but be stunned by their originality, since they were able to make more than three songs with the same stolen riff from some classic metal song (Iggy Pop, THE CULT,..). Even if they were trying hard to be AC/DC, there was an acute power shortage.
Finally THE CULT arrived with 3 original members plus a guitarist and a former Porno For Pyros bassist Martyn LeNoble. Most obvious was that they were having fun. The audience too. The band delivered its standards one after the other with their trademark electric touch. By opening with "Lil Devil" and closing with "Love Removal Machine", they made it clear that in their soul they are a hard rock band, even if their albums went from Gothic batcave to Hard Rock, and pop with an electronic flirt. Beyond labeling them, though, they are above all a Rock Band injecting a high dose of authentic wild Rock, just like a good old Iggy Pop show. And while most rock acts are now incarnated by angel baby dudes, THE CULT suddenly appears to be one of the last pure rock acts able to save an endangered music species. More than enjoying what they play, Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy believe in their music, a crucial difference, and add infinitely to our pleasure. No marketing intent or Puff Daddy opportunism here.
While Astbury was like a snake on stage daunting and poisoning the crowd with his deep vocals, Duffy was chainsawing with his powerful riffs so that nobody could remain unmoved from this music. Supported by a big bass and big beats, there was strenght in their sound. The singer was running, jumping, giving everything and so did the crowd (without mentioning the usual retards there only to annoy the band followers and mess around). Astbury has charisma and the band connected right away to the crowd. It didn't look like they had been absent for 5 years.
Contrary to what hard rock fans would choose as favorite moments, they were an adrenaline charged "She Sells Sanctuary", a powerful "Wild Flower" and a hypnotic "Rain". Most of the show was centered on Sonic Temple and Electric (the most appealing album to Americans) and their best of High Octane Cult, plus three cuts from Love, ignoring unfortunately the last two underestimated albums The Cult and Ceremony as well as their early years when they were known as CULT and DEATH CULT. And while certain albums might sound old, all of the live versions were saturated guitar-driven, what created an osmosis between the songs from the different periods and a constant rage. On slower songs like "Revolution" the band kept its strength, where others would have fallen into a cheesy "everyone hold up your lighters" sing a long. Other tracks included "Fire Woman", "Edie", "Sweet Soul Sister", "The Witch", "Revolution", "Beauty on the Streets", while songs such as "Coming Down", "Dreamtime", "Spiritwalker" and others were missing. It is unfortunate since they represent another era of the band and that could have provided a break among the metal songs. And that's the only concern about the show, the fact that they didn't really cover their wide repertoire, along with Atsbury's claims to be the best band since THE DOORS. But does it really matter?
The chance to see THE CULT back on stage in such a privileged small venue such as The House Of Blues was an event you couldn't afford to miss. And for those like me who were doubting, it gives hope that Rock & Roll might no be dead yet, as long as it remains authentic and wild.