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THE CULT:  Royal Oak Music Theater, Show Review – Aug. 7, 2014

ROYAL OAK: The Cult burst onto the scene in 1986 in a big way. The album was, “LOVE” and it slammed the MTV airwaves and the college crowd loved it. Within a few weeks it popped up onto the Rolling Stone top ten ranking college albums. The traditional rock and roll audience kind of blew it off as nothing serious making fun of the albums status,  (“You mean to tell me you ACTUALLY pay attention to the college radio album list?). LOVE, was big, powerful, and it had the club dance hit, “She Sells Sanctuary”. It brought back this quasi appreciation for the late 60’s, mysticism, and it called for introspection. The album was moody and very atmospheric and the biggest release up to date.

MTV and alternative radio continued to chip away at the public consciousness with other acts. There was The Replacements, THE THE, The Lime Spiders, PIL. By the time The Cult released its follow up, “Electric” in 1987 the direction was very clear. This was going to be a much louder effort and the focus was going to be on splitting a few ear drums and making a very loud statement. This band was going to propel itself into the media mainstream forever. Well almost thirty years later this has been certainly the case. In fact, last year The Cult rolled out a full presentation of the classic rock album, “Electric” live in concert in its entirety. That is the cool thing to do now you know…. Do a full classic album live in front of a cheering crowd.

It was unclear what Ian Astbury and the crew was going to do at the Royal Oak show. I made sure I got there early to check things out. The t-shirt booth got my attention. I noticed some shirts there that had the, “Electric” album graphics on it. And those shirts actually looked BETTER than the ones they first toured with on the original, “Electric” tour when they supported Billy Idol in Pine Knob in 1987, (Yeah, I was there for that one too). I did a little researching on the tour thus far and knew they were going to whip out a few from that album when I did a set list search on Google.

The supporting act was something called, “Electric Citizen”. They were good but I never heard of them before. I was able to get a good spot on the floor really close to the front row and I didn’t’ want to lose my spot. When Ian Astbury came onto the stage I didn’t really recognize him. He had put on some weight, he had sunglasses on and his hair was really short. Billy Duffy came out wearing this white 900 pound Rickenbacker guitar and I could make out the opening riffs to, “Rain” and the crowd was going crazy. Astbury had this raccoon tail dangling from his back pocket, (maybe it was a fox tail) so he was  still holding onto this Native American power. This guy takes that stuff seriously.  I’m Native American actually and this guy tries to hold onto more traditions than I do and he’s British. Go figure.

The drum kit was mic’d up to the hilt and it was loud as hell. One thump on it sounded like a gigantic rush of thunder. There was no gigantic digital display or any elaborate stage design around the band, (which is something they should consider). This was a bare bones rock concert where the greatest special effect was the sound, the music and the original band members. The glitz of the MTV era may be fading and all we are left with is the music – but for now – that is all we need. The Royal Oak Music Theater cannot hold a ton of people and only had room for the Cults most devoted fans. In some ways they have become a cult band.

The band leaped into, “Lil Devil” from  the, “Electric” album and brought it to life. The songs were finally getting the attention they deserved. When this album was first played to the Michigan audience the crowd was less than enthusiastic. They all wanted to see Billy Idol and Steve Stevens tear up the stage for their album, “Whiplash Smile”. This seems almost comical now because The Cult was freaking serious about everything they did. The lyrics for most of the songs on, “Electric” were almost bordering on self parody. There’s a lot of yammering about Electric Oceans, and Soul Shaking Love Removal Machines amped  up to the max with senseless gyrating and wah wah guitars. But that was the point. It was an over the top sensory overload 80’s style. That sort of whoop-de-doo was missed in the 90’s, and the non-existent 2000’s where music took a big belly flop.

The Setlist:

Honey From A Knife
Lil’ Devil
Aphrodisiac Jacket
The Witch
Sweet Soul Sister
The Phoenix
Wild Flower
Sun King
King Contrary Man
Love Removal Machine
American Horse
She Sells Sanctuary

The driving pulsating force of, “Honey From A Knife” clearly shows us that these guys got their finger on the mad pulse of mind throbbing music. Its manic. It’s not quite metal but damn…. It sure is interesting. With sounds like this the Cult wants you to know they are here to do what they do best – deliver a wild driving sound that is unsurpassed by other bands. They always had imagination. They had something that the rest of the rock world could never understand or even attempt to duplicate. That has to do with style, manic passion, and sincere dedication to their craft.

A lot of metal aficionados respect the Cult and the fan base has been growing. The band was slipping in and out of style over the years taking detours like the, “21st Century Doors” with Robbie Krieger and Ray  Manzarek. Together they brought back THE DOORS in 2013 to a limited audience and concert run. 

The Cult came to rock. Without much of an introduction or pause between the songs they lurched into another onslaught of sonic vibration.  That meant pulling out unexpected gems like, “Spiritwalker” which has tremendous likeability. I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have when this was first released. I certainly didn’t see this coming up on a live stage anytime soon but it really fit the overall set list and it had incredible drive to it.

Back in the day remember that it wasn’t always easy to get music back then like it is today. The original Cult albums came in as imports and were often two or three times the amount as major record releases. So a lot of these tracks, B-sides included, were overlooked. From the import section some were purchased and then resold to used record shops like Wazoo, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. You had to be a scrap picker to find good stuff and then take a gamble on the price just to see if you even liked it. Today with Youtube, you just click on a button.

The other thing about The Cult is that they used to go by another name, The Southern Death Cult. This was before they were dusted off and polished for the MTV audience.

This was a short tour. It was one of those things that you just don’t put much thought in. If you are a fan you grab a ticket and just go. I understand that they were supposed to end this tour at some big music festival but that has been cancelled due to legal reasons of some kind.

That’s all I got in my notes…… Oh, and one last thing. If you are a real fan do check out the official T-shirts. You will not be disappointed by them because they have some fun designs are really cool. The Electric ones were my favorite and I liked the graphic skull and bones.


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