The support act for tonight’s performance is Masters of Reality, brainchild of Chris Goss and epitome of “desert rock”. The noise made by this five piece is immense, creating soundscapes during the slower paced tracks that envelop the part filled hall.
Throughout the set, the band gradually win over more of the audience, drawing them closer with each perfectly crafted song. Each track is constructed in an innovative manner with the creative use of dynamics and timing provides an unusual depth to the auditory experience. The more rock based songs, such as Dreamtime Stomp and the incredibly catchy She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On), are performed with a delicate heaviness enhanced by Goss’ smooth and melodious vocals. Having heard them on record beforehand, Masters of Reality live give you the true experience and it has increased my enjoyment of their albums no end. Furthermore, Ian Astbury reiterates their greatness by noting that The Cult have had to raise their game thanks to Masters of Reality.
After interviewing Ian Astbury for an hour, not long ago, I was intrigued to see if my new found knowledge about the lead singer would influence my view of their live performance at all.
The Cult begin their set with a fairly new track, Everyman and Woman is a Star, which receives a warm reception. Duffy unleashes his unique guitar riffs upon the audience and Astbury demonstrates the power of his vocals; clearly showing that nearly thirty years on they are still producing music that encapsulates their definitive sound.
Behind the band is a large screen playing well edited images and video clips to enhance the auditory experience and add a further layer of meaning to the songs. The early appearance of Rain shocks some of the audience and elevates the level of crowd participation which is maintained throughout Horse Nation into Sweet Soul Sister. The mood becomes more subdued with White, heightened by subtle onstage lighting and a variety of beautiful pictures, this continues into Saints Are Down which is mesmeric. Astbury takes on a trance like state throughout the track, reaching a climatic end with a release of raw emotion.
The set proceeds with the upbeat and driving pace of Dirty Little Rockstar followed by Nirvana, which sees the vocals lost in the mix temporarily. The first half of the set ends with Astbury introducing a short film he has made called A Prelude to Ruins which was destroyed by a portion of the audience airing their disgust and complaints about seeing an alternative form of art when they had come to “watch a bloody rock show”. Considering the film was only a few minutes long and, on initial viewing, of artistic merit, it’s a shame that they didn’t use the break for a toilet or drink stop and let the rest of us explore Astbury’s venture into a different medium.
The second half of the set begins with a new track, Embers, which again emphasises that the Astbury/Duffy combination still holds the key to the sound of The Cult. Astbury begins to stir up the crowd throughout the second section of the show, encouraged by rousing tracks such as War, Go West and the awesome Wildflower which had everyone moving in some way or another. After another new track, Until the Light Takes Us, the band launch into their most famous song, She Sells Sanctuary, which they perform as if they only wrote it yesterday. Even though it is still played regularly on various radio stations, seeing it played live gives it a certain edge. Leading perfectly into the Stonesesque riff of Love Removal Machine, in which The Cult ride the energy of the crowd beautifully and draws to a close a very enjoyable set. After a brief exit from the stage, the band return with Rise, Spiritwalker and an unexpected cover version of The Doors’ Break On Through that illustrated why Astbury had taken on Jim Morrison’s role.
Even after all these years, The Cult are well worth seeing live and with the added bonus of Masters of Reality, it was an impressive start to my gig seeing year. As for whether the interview altered my perspective, it certainly gave me insight to the use and purpose of the backdrop and images which did add depth to the performance.
Review – Toni Woodward