So, almost thirty years on and we are witnessing The Cult on the Destroy Europa Tour in Manchester 2011 on their last UK date. Arriving at 5pm, the doors opened at 6pm, so the prospect of having to stand and endure two support acts before the main band didn’t exactly inspire us with enthusiasm.
R O M A N C E: Eventually the doors opened and it was a free for all to get a front spot. R O M A N C E, emerged from the left with super skinny, bleached blonde frontman pin up Jamie Lovatt, decked in white leather jacket with flowing tassels, white jeans, all energy charged and refreshing to watch. We were heading for a real treat tonight, also delighted to see my favourite orgasmic bass player Samantha Valentine (ex Ipso Facto) back on stage again, last seen supporting Magazine on this very stage. Added to the explosive mix we had David Woods on Drums and Alexander Glover on Lead Guitar. The whole ensemble and set was a thrill and with shades of Billy Idol and a pretty boy Kirk Brandon on vocals how could they go wrong. It’s rather unusual when a guest band for a renown group proves to be a big hit with the crowd but they pulled it off with bags of style and their pop - rock sound. Jamie had the audience whooping when he dramatically ripped his tee shirt off and finished the performance bare chested. Left me with a warm glow, and raring to go for the next band. We had a little chat later with Samantha, about her previous defunct band, and off she continued to hand out flyers (nice touch). I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for this band in future.
Masters Of Reality: Fronted by bald headed Chris Goss, a giant of a man giving off strange, somewhat menacing powerful vibes, dressed in a loose fitting suit curiously wearing a ‘Sheriff’ badge. At this point I wasn’t sure what to expect, it soon became clear it was a case of classic hard rock played extremely ear-splitting loud, but with disappointing low vocals in the mix and a lack of passion and emotion. To be frank, it just failed to move me, I did however like one or two tracks but they just seemed to go on forever and I really wanted it to end. I was now ready to behold the main act of the night.
The Cult: The Cult are unquestionably one of the best of their genre and period. I wondered how they must feel being back on home turf once more. Duffy is after all a Mancunian and Astbury is from the Wirral (he once shared a flat with a friend of mine, many moons ago). Although he has almost lost his English accent, his American twang just didn’t sound right. He’s also a moody unpredictable fecker, but I guess that’s what makes for an attention-grabbing show!
The large stage was simplistically arranged for maximum floor space, with large sets of amps clustered at the back. Astbury had an Indian style patterned rug laid out by his feet, plastered down with tons of grey tape (health & safety and all that jazz). I wondered if he’d be doing a fire dance upon it tonight.
In walked the band after a short musical intro, against a backdrop of a skull, crossbones and stars and struck into a new Cult track ‘Everyman and Woman Is A Star’. Astbury strode quickly and confidently across the stage, channelling the late great rocker Jim Morrison with long wavy locks, a mix of darkness and mystic with his Hells Angel attire, black leather gloved hands, a dead furry friend dangling on his belt, with his requisite cowboy boots. Whilst not forgetting the rest of the crew: Duffy under the white shaft of light with his white Gretchen guitar shining brightly, baring more than a passing resemblance to Gordon Ramsey; Mike on rhythm guitar flaunting a cheeky resemblance to Elvis Costello; excellent, powerful drumming from Mike Dimkich and the heavy thudding bass of a sombre Chris Wyse.
The backdrop now changed to a rolling silent movie which played throughout the whole show, from war torn images to Diva’s of music, 60’s, right through to American Indians and plenty more evocative imagery. Although, at times its hard to tear your eyes away from Astbury’s large persona, whipping his mic lead around, thrashing his tambourine, his head shaking, and hair flinging actions, at times his face is completely covered in hair, resembling Cousin IT. And I thought he was just hiding from my camera…..oh now there is a little story there!
The band launched into ‘White’ from the album 'Ceremony' whilst the background showed a moving scene of winter, with snow covered trees. As normally is the case I am glued to my camera, and at the end of the track Astbury came across to me, looking directly at me and said down the mic to a packed hall “Turn your camera off and just enjoy the show”. He then went on a mini rant, about videos and cameras. It was that one moment when you wanted the ground to swallow you up. Later in the show he came over to me and gestured for me to have his tambourine. I’d be curious to know if was guilt or a thank you for switching off the camera as per request. Whatever, it was a nice gesture and left me with no hard feelings from the events earlier. Besides it makes a remarkable story too!
Off they went after Ghost Dance, for a ten minute break, whilst Astbury asked us to watch this short movie – a bizarre movie about the South Dakota reservation. (He says it gives us more about what the band are about – but left me bewildered). Astbury yelled as he walked off “When we come back we are gonna kill ya”
The crowd seemed a bit too quiet initially and I wondered when the natives might start to get restless and start jostling. However we didn’t have long to wait, as soon as the more popular numbers rang out ‘Horse Nation’, ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ and ‘Go West’ had the masses moving and a groovin'. When he roars and spouts out ‘Dirty Little Rockstar’ your so convinced he’s been there and done it all. I’ve gotta say he did forget a couple of words from the lyrics and the vocals could have been a tad higher in the mix. Amongst my favourite tracks were the rocky ‘Sweet Soul Sister’, the metal rock of ‘Love Removal Machine’ and the howling sacred song ‘Wild Flower’.
However, all together an entertaining show, which only got better as the night wore on. Astbury got grumpier and spat his dummy out a few times, smashed a tambourine and threw it into the crowd and kept us guessing what his next move might be. He’s not as fit or agile as he used to be but then again he is 48, and often when we revisit the bands of our youth we expect them to perform to the same physical peak we remember.The show came to a close with Astbury declaring he was going to do a cover from a famous Manchester band, (for a second I wondered how they could cover a Smiths number) but then launched into ‘Break On Through’ by The Doors. It’ll be the closest we’ll ever get to witnessing a superb Doors cover live – you could almost sense Jim Morrison’s spirit applauding. No one could pull this off better than Ian Astbury and The Cult. I figured it was the ultimate way to end the evening, and breaking the venue’s curfew to - way to go Ian! And Off the stage he stomped snatching his booklet from the floor as he left. (Presume it was his lyrics book or setlist? – can anyone enlighten me?)
Everyman and Woman Is A Star
Sweet Soul Sister
Saints Are Down
Dirty Little Rockstar
Until The Light Takes Us
She Sells Sanctuary
Love Removal Machine