The Cult, August 21st, The Neptune, Seattle, WA – Way back in 8th grade in about 1987 (yes, I’m that old, the O in OLRMF does stand for “Old”) I remember that one of the cool kids was wearing a Cult t-shirt and we chatted a bit about The Cult before class started. Here was a cute popular girl talking to me about The Cult, I didn’t know who the band was at the time, but I think I faked it well enough. No matter what, I needed to find out more about this band, they were clearly legit.
Fast forward a few years and The Cult blew the hell up with the release of Sonic Temple which included the huge hit “Fire Woman”. The band had this bluesy Led Zeppelin feel to it with a lead singer that sounded like Jim Morrison. And that’s pretty much what is going on today and that’s why people have loved The Cult for so long, awesomeness and consistency.
I can’t say that I was a huge follower of the band even after that inspiration in 8th grade. I knew of those songs that found their way to the mainstream and I always appreciated how great they were. Accessible rock that didn’t back down even when it was in the limelight, always staying on its bluesy, classic course. So, I can’t really speak at length to what it was like to live with The Cult for years or break down their catalog with any real insight, so I’ll fast forward right to the night a few weeks ago when my friend Todd and I saw them live.
We did the math, these guys are in their mid 50s at least, with Todd and I about a decade behind them. This was an old guys show all the way around. I think the last show I saw that was in the ballpark was Weezer, but I think they are at least in their 40s, this was the first time in a while I’d seen truly aged rockers at work. And it wasn’t half bad.
Their guitarist Billy Duffy is clearly the guy with the majority of the musical talent in the band, although their drummer John Tempesta did a damn fine job keeping the torrid pace. If Billy has all the musical talent – he’s an amazing guitarist – all the personality goes to the lead singer Ian Astbury. It’s clear that Ian’s been living beyond his 50 years, he couldn’t find all the lyrics of all the songs electing to skip a few words here and there. But, for the most part, he clicked right along with the band and put on a great show.
Todd and I were over analyzing the show afterwards and discussing what it means to be an aged guitarist vs. an aged vocalist. Especially a vocalist with a voice like Ian, which is unique and soaring most of the time. You’d have to live like a monk to hold on to a voice like that. It’s clear Ian hasn’t. It’s not to diminish the work that a good guitarist has to put into keeping up when you’re older – heck, didn’t Jimmy Page break a finger getting back into guitar shape? But, it still seems much more possible to get back into guitar practice than it does to get your voice back.
Talking to my colleague and friend Bob Zammit – it’s interesting to note that the vocal cord surgery that helped fixed Adele‘s pipes is being considered to go back and save the older folks. Although if that were true, I’m not sure that Ian should opt for it. He’d lose some of the “who gives a shit” delivery that go so well with all the swagger he had out there on stage in his faux fur jacket and sunglasses. He is the classic rocker personified. He came from another time and he still lives there. Gotta admire that they aren’t trying to reinvent themselves.
All in all, I’d say it was a good show, even with the few mis-steps, mostly in the form of those “breaks” from lyrics that Ian would take. My friend Todd gave them a solid 7 out of 10, which I have to agree with. If you grew up in that era on the bleeding edge of classic rock and The Cult has crossed your path and you needed a good classic rock infusion, you could do a lot worse. They play everything you want to hear and even though I hadn’t heard the record, the few tracks they played from their new one were pretty darn good.
If for nothing else, you can get some great old school rocker sightings from the crowd, like the token guy in leather pants and a leather headband with his blonde bombshell girlfriend with him. Makes you feel like you went back in time. A trip you should take if you get the chance, I just hope Ian doesn’t swagger himself out of the gig too soon.