The Cult's Electric 13 Tour In Chicago
House of Blues- Chicago, IL: August 27th, 2013- The Cult always lived in this rarified air between metal and alternative music. They are nearly the only act who could be seen on both Headbanger's Ball and 120 Minutes. Both Metallica and Cure fans can sit back and find pleasure in the band's mystic and metal leanings. Their ability to cross genres is a testament to not just the album's they created but to their legacy as well. Almost no one could comfortably float between these two worlds without backlash, but amazingly not only did the Cult succeed they are still doing it today.
At Chicago's House of Blues, the Cult served both of these fans bases with a rock-hard and diverse 23-song set that lasted two hours. The band jumpstarted the show with the entire eleven-track Electric record from 1987. This is an atypical album because it is sandwiched between two better-known records (the atmospheric punch of Love and the arm waving Sonic Temple) and yet in many ways Electric may be the Cult's best top-to-bottom record. Its main flaw is it does not contain a single as exhilarating as "Fire Woman" (which was conspicuously absent from this tour) or "She Sells Sanctuary". That being said-singles do not make records. After initially recording a follow up to Love entitled Peace, a chance meeting with Rick Rubin found the band re-recording the entire record which eventually was re-titled as Electric. It solidified their hard rock lineage. The opening one-two punch of "Wildflower" and "Peace Dog" ignited the crowd to life as the sung the choruses back to the band flexing their arms to the air in a sign of passionate admiration.
The current incarnation of the Cult may be the finest lineup the band has ever employed. It helps that they have been an evolving unit for more than seven years. During this time despite continual touring the band has constructed two better-than-anticipated records; Born into This and Choice of Weapon. "Honey from a Knife", "Lucifer" and the hidden gem "Embers" all hail from Weapon and shone on the concert stage. "Embers" was riveting with a guitar riff that swing and swayed its way up a twirling staircase as singer Ian Astbury in his baritone pining took the crowd on a journey on expression. You believed he was serenading a great love in the very room. Here is a song that was not even on the proper album but was included on the bonus disc. It becomes a highlight of the show because Astbury went somewhere deep when he sung it, pulling the audience into his world and mind while the band breathed life into the song, which felt eternal with its tale of an everlastingly crushed heart.
Drummer John Tempesta (who has played with White Zombie, Exodus and Testament) was implausibly tight. He snapped the snare with sledgehammer strength on "Aphrodisiac Jacket" and "Electric Ocean" making you not just think but feel as if he was the drummer who recorded this record more than a quarter of a century back. Guitarist Billy Duffy (who is looking lean and mean with muscular tattooed arms and a full-grown beard) manages to be a flashy player and yet the secret to his execution is that he never shows off. "Rain", "Sweet Soul Sister" and "She Sells Sanctuary" with guitars that shift between Sabbath and the Smiths and yet they were always serving the song. Another extraordinary addition to the Cult was of bassist Chris Wyse whose bass maneuvered its way seamlessly throughout the songs like rolling thunder. He would rumble and make his presence known but only flashed his bottom end luminosity when required, notably on "Bad Fun", "Zap City" and "The Phoenix". He even delivered some stellar harmonies when he sang on "For the Animals", yet another surprising Choice of Weapon cut. Hearing this song makes you realize you may not have listened to the album as closely as you should have as it hails from the same DNA as their classic records and was the first record in their entire career for which the line-up was the same as the previous record.
This is the second Cult tour to feature an entire record performed in its entirety and with the 25th anniversary of Sonic Temple next year, don't be surprised if the band decides to take that album out on the road as well. Despite billed an evening sold as a peak to the past with the full album performance of Electric the Cult flourished when confessionals poured from the stage, most notably from Choice of Weapon cuts. I may have walked in seeking a peak from the past but I walked away with a vivid picture of the present and the Cult proved themselves to be more than a band looking back but one still willing to share verbal and musical allegories that penetrate not just your ears but obscured feelings as well.
The Cult will finish their tour of America in early September and will then take the tour to Australia, the UK and other parts of Europe through November. (Find the upcoming tour dates here.)
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
The Cult's Electric 13 Tour In Chicago