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As I begin the descent from the hills of Mossley towards Manchester, the ominously dark clouds seem to fit the scenario perfectly, my destination, Ardwick, and gothic rock veterans The Cult with support from The Mission. Originally, the tour also including Killing Joke, all three bands scheduled to play the MEN Arena, until downgrade to the smaller confines of the Manchester 02 Apollo and subsequent unclear circumstances leading to Jaz Coleman and colleagues announcing a non-appearance.

The Mission appear relatively early in front of a not unsubstantial  crowd for a decent length set and I’m pleased to observe, both they and assembled fans don’t try to emulate the look of yore. At a certain point in life, the Goth image really doesn’t work, youth and a lack of portly waist pre-requisite to wearing well. The Mission only drew my minimal attention at their height, the music generally plodding, at times even bland, although the appeal of tracks such as “Wasteland”, “Serpents Kiss” “Deliverance” and “Severina” understandable and all aired tonight.

A lot depends on the rhythm section, especially the drums, if utilised to good extent, the fill content high, The Mission become far more interesting, far too often however, not the case, add a lack of variation particularly around the lead guitar sound, it’s far to easy to drift off, start searching the venue for refreshment distractions. While perhaps uninspiring, The Mission play a solid set in restrained manner, until a frankly quite bizarre encore. Wayne Hussey returns to the stage alone initially, a backing track playing as he begins the intro to “Tower of Strength.” Why the need for the track, with band stood waiting beyond me, and eventually all re-appear. Hussey decides it’s time he played the big frontman role, losing his guitar to a roadie, stalking the stage microphone in one hand, bottle of red wine in the other, swigging between lines, although adopting a drunken Gollum lost in the depths of Mordor air, than a Robert Plantesque rock God, subsequently bringing the set to a complete close with a chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.  Whether this a tribute to the Hillsborough disaster back in the forefront of people’s minds this week, or just a general allegiance to Liverpool F.C, I’m not sure, whichever, the significance lost in Manchester tonight. Pity, it had all gone reasonably well up to that point.

Even before The Cult take the stage, I’m anticipating a tense performance. Mel my image partner in crime tonight, confined to the mixing desk due to a ridiculous photography policy, with security allegedly instructed not to look up at the stage, instead ensure no one in the first six rows uses a camera flash or holds up phones taking pictures and videos. Ian Astbury (looking uncannily like George Michael tonight with beard and in shades) does have a reputation of petulance on occasions, but surely even he couldn’t expect a request of this nature to be policed, especially in a standing only venue. Whether the case or not, as The Cult take the stage, up go the cameras and phones with no response from security or Astbury.  In fact, he revels in the atmosphere as the band break into the strains of “Lil Devil,” quickly apparent, Ian is in good mood, good form and bloody good voice tonight.  Interaction with the crowd is plentiful and light hearted, appearing genuinely pleased so many have made the trip to the Apollo tonight. Along with Astbury, the main focus of attention is ex Wythenshawe resident Billy Duffy, his solid tattooed frame cranking out the big riffs and solos throughout. That white Gretsch still looking far too big, although doesn’t restrain Duffy’s monumental wah wah fuelled performance of note bending, shredding and hammering on, heavy rock guitar at it’s most raw, muscular and invigorating. Back in his native Manchester, Duffy even takes the opportunity to say a few words, particularly pleasing for the Blue half of the audience as his commitment to the current Premier league champions is expressed.

Any concerns I harboured initially, totally unfounded, The Cult’s performance tonight pure primal rock n roll, perhaps slightly clichéd, dangerously close to a drum solo at one point, although thoroughly entertaining and exhilarating. Amongst a smattering of new tracks taken from this year’s “Choice of a Weapon” album, we are treated to an absolute best of, including “Fire Woman ,” Rain,Spiritwalker”  a brilliant main set closer with probably their most recognisable hit “She Sells Sanctuary before an encore of “Horse Nation”  and a tumultuous version of “Love Removal Machine.” The Cult proving unequivocally, copious amounts of life left in this band yet.  


Lil' Devil
Honey From a Knife
Fire Woman
The Phoenix
The Wolf
Life Is Greater Than Death
For the Animals
Wild Flower
She Sells Sanctuary


Horse Nation
Love Removal Machine

Review and Videos by Andy Barnes
Photos by Melanie Smith [from the Mixing desk]

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