Monday, December 30, 2013

Ciao, Baby: The Cult

I can't remember the first time I heard The Cult. It may have been at a dance after a football game; I can remember dancing to "She Sells Sanctuary" and "Love Removal Machine" in the gym at Salpointe Catholic High School, but whether or not that's the first time I ever heard them I can't be sure. I really got into them (as I imagine other people did) when Sonic Temple came out in 1989. For reasons I'm not sure I can entirely explain, "Firewoman" became an anthem of sorts for me and also became my nickname among friends of mine. As much as I loved "Firewoman", I really loved "Edie (Ciao Baby)", and that song still holds some sway over me. The image of Edie that's used on the cover of Edie:  Girl On Fire is also the image The Cult used for the single. I think it's fair to say I would never have had any idea who Edie Sedgwick was without that's still a beautiful melody, great lyrics and epic. There's plenty of other good tracks on Sonic Temple-"Sun King", "New York City", and "Automatic Blues" are some of my favorites.

Over the years I've picked up other albums of theirs, including Electric, which was the album preceding Sonic Temple. When I heard The Cult were coming to the Rialto and that they would be performing Electric in its entirety, I thought,  "Oooh...'Wildflower'? 'Love Removal Machine'? 'Memphis Hip Shake'? The cover of 'Born To Be Wild'? Yes, please!" But, I also thought, "Hmmm. These guys must be in their 50's now. Am I going to be sorry I saw them?" I posted my concerns on  facebook, asking if I should see them, and an old friend of mine said, "YES. You want to see them. They've still got it."

The show was December 20 at the Rialto. In an effort to see if there was an opening band I had done some googling the day before, and to my surprise, the set lists that people had posted did NOT include "Edie" or "Firewoman". Hmph!  It also looked like Electric wasn't necessarily being performed in its entirety at every show. Oh well--these guys have been at it for 30+ years, so if they want to skip some hits, they're entitled.

After the opening band ended, it was easily an hour long wait for The Cult to come on. People were getting restless...and then....they arrived, and opened with "Wildflower" (of course!) The band went from one song straight to the chatter. But as I suspected, Electric was not performed in its entirety, which means I didn't get to hear the cover of "Born To Be Wild". I couldn't complain too much though, since I got to hear "Love Removal Machine", "Rain", "She Sells Sanctuary", and my personal favorite, "Sun King". They also played several tracks off their newest album, Choice of Weapon (available on Freegal, our music download site), which is actually pretty good. I picked it up at Zia (I know, who BUYS cds these days?) after reading a positive review in the Tucson Weekly, and was happy to hear some of the songs played live. However, I think only I and maybe one other person knew the songs. I'm sure it's frustrating for older bands to know that the majority of the crowd is there for the hits, even when they have new material that's good.

I was most impressed with Billy Duffy, The Cult's guitar player. At first I was actually confused as to who Billy Duffy was...I saw the guy playing guitar and thought, "Wait--is that Billy Duffy? Wow, he looks amazing, better looking now than he was back in the day!" He sounded great and looked like he was having a good time. Ian Astbury, I must admit, was a bit of a let down. He kept his sunglasses on throughout 80% of the show (a huge pet peeve of mine) and I didn't think his vocals sounded so great either...or maybe the sound just wasn't mixed very well...? And then he got into it with one of the bouncers down front; I'm not sure what happened, but Astbury went off on a rant about "professionals versus amateurs" and I swear the bouncer literally skulked off to the side. It also seemed to me that Astbury was just sort of going through the motions...having not seen them live before I'm not sure if this is his usual MO or not.

The friend who went with me saw The Cult with Billy Idol way back in the 80's and said it was one of the best shows she had ever seen. I'm not sure how she felt about this show. I enjoyed it, but wouldn't rank it as one of my favorites. I'm reminded of the adage that "Rock 'n' Roll is a young man's game", and as I (and these bands) get older, I'm beginning to think there's some truth to that.

But....did I play Christmas music this weekend? Not really. I played The Cult.

Until next time,

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