Monday, May 26, 2008

RUHtf Concert Review: The Cult at the Grove, Sunday May 25

Many 80’s bands seem to have suffered a fate akin to making a deal with the devil during their prime in exchange for their fast fame and huge fortune. They either:

A) had their one hit single/album/video never to be heard from again, but putting food on the table with their royalty checks, either from their song being featured on 80’s compilations appropriately (and embarassingly) called something like “80’s One Hit Wonders!”, and/or appearances on VH1’s “Where Are They Now?”

B) had their hit, was dropped by the label because of a lackluster second album, are forever relegated to playing “Flashback” multi-band tours with other 1, 2, and 3 hit wonders…with position on the bill dictated by number of hits.

C) Enjoyed success in the 80’s, had some in the 90’s, jumped the sinking ship known as the music industry and are now putting out music on their own (finding $9/album more profitable than $1) or are a “trophy” artist for an indie looking for some mainstream cred.

D) Are U2.

In this fickle day and age of a cannibalistic/self-defeating record industry and music fans’s fickleness, what could be all the rage one minute becomes cut-out bin fodder the next.

The Cult fall in the “C” category above. They were giants back in “the day”. In the 80‘s they toured with other huge bands (Metallica) and helped launched the careers of others (touring with Guns And Roses shortly after the release of “Appetite For
Destruction”). In the great debate that often takes place when music geeks gather, if not “the most influential”, valid arguments could be made to place The Cult amongst the top 10 greatest and most influential bands of the 80’s. They would have easily been able to headline and sell-out the first Lollapalooza, had Ian Astbury (the Cult’s singer) not “invented” the multi-band, multi-city alternative festival a year earlier with Gathering Of The Tribes.

On stage at The Grove Sunday was ½ of the band that made their “classic” albums (“Love” and “Electric”), but then again the Cult was always Astbury and Billy Duffy…with two other guys. It may as well have been Andrew Ridgeley and Dave Stewart (two other musicians in the 80’s whose partners eclipsed their careers) on the front of the “Electric” album cover along with Astbury and Duffy. They have put out albums since their heyday, and have been touring, yet they don’t have the status, have not sold as many albums, and are not playing the same size arenas. The fans come to expect loud power chords, dynamic solos, and thundering drums, as well as Astbury’s wail, and at the Grove the band delivered. Each era of their career was touched on, going back to Death Cult (one of their first incarnations). The new songs gave the casual fans a moment to go for a bathroom break (it seems “Here’s a song off our new album” translates in to “Why don’t you take a moment to go to the bathroom”). The old songs shook with the thundering power of the original albums. New songs blended right in with the groove. Hardcore Cult fans will notice that live, the “Electric” songs sound more like the “Manor Sessions”/Peace, rather than having Rick Rubin studio crunch. Missing, sadly, was a noticeable contingent of young fans, important for a band to bring in new fans rather than having to repackage the hits for the old fans.

Also absent was a sign that the Cult will be slowing down any time soon. They’re doing things their way, which is playing shows, putting out occasional albums, and making the fans happy. It could be argued that “She Sells Sanctuary” is the “Stairway To Heaven” of the 80’s generation. The use of the song in a Nissan commercial helped make the opening riff as ubiquitous as hearing the opening notes “Stairway To Heaven” whenever one ventures in to a music store. Hopefully, the Cult can continue to keep putting out albums and tour, and get their music heard somehow, as that is how they will get new fans. A rumored tour with an as yet unconfirmed Zeppelin could also help propel The Cult back to the upper floor of the sales charts, though often an opening band on such a high profile show could get lost under the weight of the headliner (and “Opening band” on the marquee sometimes translates as “Show starts at 9:30”).

Here's a cool promo clip I saw on Cinemax:

Listen to this interview with the band from Rockline when Beyond Good and Evil came out:

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