The Cult, Stabbing Westward, Monster Magnet and Bird3 Live


by antiGuy

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For this week's TBT we travel back to the summer of 2001 to revisit antiGuy's review of The Cult's Beyond Good And Evil tour that also featured Stabbing Westward, Monster Magnet and Bird3. Here is the review:

Chapter I: In the Beginning....

It was a perfect day to throw an outdoor concert. The mild southern California summer had just began and the temperatures hadn't yet climbed above the 80's, the sky was crystal clear and better yet whoever put this lineup together know what the hell they were doing. Being a virgin to the live Cult experience, it was with great anticipation that I hoped into my car, put down the top and headed out for the hundred-mile drive south to the University of California, San Diego. I didn't mind the drive, I had the Cult's latest CD "Beyond Good and Evil" to keep me company. I did get some strange looks from other commuters, I guess they found a long hair guy in a convertible rockin' out humorous. What ever…They don't know what they are missing.

Chapter II: The Flight of Bird3

I got to the venue just in time to catch Bird3 take the stage. This was an added bonus since I've been listening to their debut CD constantly for the past couple of months. Lead vocalist/guitarist Bird really lives a charmed life. This guy moved to L.A. from Chicago, within six months he had teamed up with bassist Greg Coates and drummer Michael Miley and landed a record deal. Their good fortune doesn't stop there, not only did they land an artist of the month slot at antiMusic, their CD wasn't even in stores a week before they got hooked up with two major tours!(count that as three as they have just been added to the Warped tour as this article goes to press -ed) It isn't just a Midas touch; it has to do with the music. These guys are seriously great where it counts; the music. Bird is a gifted songwriter and he couldn't have picked a better team to help bring his music to the masses. Ok, they sound great on CD but can they deliver live? I give you a big resounding, hell yeah!

During most shows the people who actually get there early enough to catch the opening band usually choose to go get a beer or check out the opposite sex instead of watching the band. As soon as Bird was into the first chorus of their opening number "Research Man", people started filtering down to their seats to see what the guy wearing angel wings on stage was up to. At the end of the song the crowd cheered and Bird smiling from ear to ear as he thanked the crowd for coming early. They gave high-energy performances of several songs from their debut including "Chapter III: Stabbing Westward.. Not So Far Away from perfect.

By the time Bird3 left the stage it was approaching dusk, the California sky had turned an array of pinks and oranges providing a perfect backdrop to an outdoor concert. Stabbing Westward took the stage with an electrifying rendition of "Save Yourself". Having never seen this band live before I didn't know what to expect; they easy proved to be masters of the stage. Lead vocalist Christopher Hall seemed like a reincarnation of Jim Morrison as he pranced about the stage, encouraging the crowd to revel in the music. Derrek Hawkins provided the six-string magic to the songs while bassist Jim Sellers joined with drummer Andrew Kubiszewski in crafting the moving rhythms Stabbing Westward is known for. When playing live Stabbing Westward go far beyond simply delivering the studio tracks, the songs are played with a much deeper intensity and harder rock edge than we have come to expect from their CD's. A perfect example is keyboardist/guitarist Walter Flakus who provides much of the underpinning to the band's studio sound with his programming and keyboards. I was surprised to see Walter spent most of the show wailing at a guitar and entirely ignoring the keyboards. During the songs when we would normally expect Walter's keyboards or sampling we were treated to some intense guitar playing. Where you might think that this would take away from the songs, it actually took them to a whole new level and that is exactly the reason people shell out their hard earned dollars to see a band play live, otherwise they would be no better off then simply sitting at home and listening to the CD's.

After treating the crowd to "Save Yourself" from their 1998 release "Darkest Days", the band launched into "High"; the first song of the night from their new self-titled CD. The new CD not only solidifies Stabbing Westward's rock n roll credentials, it also proved the idiots (a.k.a. rock critics) wrong in the notion of writing these guys off as a Nine Inch Nails knock off. While there are some similarities to the NIN sound, overall Stabbing Westward's songs go way beyond the styling of Trent Reznor. You just have to take the time give them an honest listen.

There was no mistaking who was ruling the stage that night as Christopher Hall led his music brigade through a few more new tracks like "The Only Thing" and "Happy". Christopher showed us his humorous side by strapping on an acoustic guitar and breaking into a few bars of John Denver's "Country Roads". He also took time to joke with a concert goer who kept yelling, while holding up a t-shirt with a pot leaf on it; "Smoke it if you got it." Christopher joked, "Get high now, go get some pizza and be back in time for the Cult". It wasn't all fun and games, Stabbing Westward was there to rock and they proved that by captivating the crowd with their new single "So Far Away".

Old time fans got a special treat as the band closed their set with an ultra heavy rendition of "Shame" from their 1996 album, "Wither Blister Burn & Peel". By the time they left the stage the sun had fully set and they had set the stage for an intense night of music. My only complaint, the set was too short, I know I wouldn't have been heart broken if Stabbing Westward swapped spots with Monster Magnet in order to play more songs.

Chapter IV: The Monster Magnet

This review is already proving longer than expected so I will keep my review of Monster Magnet brief and move on to The Cult. Monster Magnet is a band trying to keep the classic metal sound alive. For that I have to give them credit. I did enjoy their latest CD "God Says No". Musically, they have a potent combination with an extreme rhythm section and the monster chops of lead guitarist, Ed Mundell. From a musical standpoint I give them really high marks. Where I found their live show lacking was in the vocal department. Dave Wyndorf sounds great on CD, but at least at this show he spent most of the time shouting the words instead of singing them. Ok--put that fact aside, his stage presence seemed a little too contrived. By his twentieth "Mother f***in' Mother f***er" I was wondering if he had Tourette's syndrome. I know this is a metal band but it all seemed a little too clichι' for me, Blackie Lawless can pull it off but with Dave Wyndorf it seems like an act. But hey, that's just my take on it. There were plenty of people pounding their fist and banging their heads, but I've seen enough Priest, Motorhead, W.A.S.P. and Maiden shows to know the difference.

Chapter V: The Seduction of The Cult

After a brief intermission the house lights went down and the crowd jumped to their feet cheering…. A large white tarp with the artwork from the Cult's latest album, "Beyond Good and Evil", obscured the stage from view. Several purple triangles of light, set at a 45-degree angle from the lighting rig, shined through and then pulsated with a loud thumping sound like a heartbeat. The tarp drops, the stage is awash in light and sound as The Cult's triumphant return to the stage is witnessed by a few thousand lucky followers in San Diego that night. It was as if they never left, the same intensity, the same showmanship that made The Cult superstars in the 80's was there on the stage for all to see. As if singing from a secret spiritual place inside himself, Ian Astbury lifted the audience to a rapturous height as he sang, "We are not chained to the wheel /You are the tear, I have no fear/ You are so strange, I feel the same", from the bands new hit single, "Rise".

Gone were the long black locks Ian wore in the old days, on this night he donned a black beanie; with the his new look he possessed a striking resemblance to John Taylor (From Duran Duran to our non-children of the 80's readers) . Billy Duffy hadn't lost his magic fingers either. Those exceptional leads that became one of the touchstones of The Cult sound, filled the air. Although Billy experimented a bit with the more recent nu-metal tones and powerchords on the new album, his unmistakable style is still heard with every note. Last but certainly not least, Matt Sorum and Billy Morrison could give any rhythm section a run for their money. While the band had an unmistakable "Cultish" image in the 80's, The Cult of 2001 looked more like a hard working punk band, content on giving the audience their all, musically; not worrying about "all that lip stick and hair spray rubbish".

Unlike other bands that return from a hiatus, The Cult wasn't sticking the fans with a greatest hits show. They gave them the songs they knew and loved from the old days but they also supplied plenty of current favorites from the new album including; "Breathe" and the "Saint". Older favorites also kept the fans cheering as Ian dashed about the stage like a man on a mission belting out his powerful vocals during "Lil' Devil", "Peace Dog", "Rain", "the Witch".

Ian joked from the stage "…C..U..L..T.. brings you the hits", but he wasn't far off, as the band delivered one hit after another. "Edie (Ciao Baby)", brought back sweet memories of hits past. Before they broke into a letter perfect jam of "Firewomen", Ian admonished the audience; "If you don't know this one, you might as well go home now", then that unforgettable Firewomen lead guitar riff filled the arena as Ian mesmerized the audience …"F… iiiiiiii…… eeeee….. rrrrrrrr….. eeee…. rrrrrr…. / Smoke, she is a rising/ fire, yeah / Smoke on the horizon…." Utilizing seven years of stored up energy the band gave the audience every ounce of intensity they could muster with the next song, "Sweet Soul Sister" followed by another favorite from the new album, "Take the Power".

Astbury, Morrison, Sorum and Duffy had a few more tricks up their sleeve as they told the story of "Wildflower".

All good things must come to an end and you could feel the crowds' disappointment when Ian announced that the band had only one more song for them that evening. At that point, Billy Duffy walked to the front of stage and lit into the intro to "She Sells Sanctuary" and the monetary lapse of despair that overtook the audience with Ian's announcement was replaced with zealous joy.

The Cult left the stage, but the crowd wasn't done with them yet. As the cheers climbed to a fevered pitch, the band decided they hadn't had enough either and returned to the stage for WAR! What usually comes after "WAR"? Yes a brief period of "Nirvana". After witnessing this 120 minute testament to music, it was abundantly clear, The Cult had returned to reclaim their followers and had succeeded. If there were any doubters left in the audience to the true faith of The Cult, that doubt was washed away with the final song of the evening, "Love Removal Machine". Seven years isn't really that long, but in a rock world without the music of the Cult to lead us, it was much too long. They weren't too far off when they named their new album "Beyond Good and Evil" because that night they went way beyond good.

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The Cult, Stabbing Westward, Monster Magnet and Bird3 Live

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