The Cult - Leeds Beckett University

Posted by vibrations on 15-03-16

In their ‘Sonic Temple’ pomp, I viewed The Cult as a somewhat preposterous proposition. Too metal, too overblown. Nevertheless, I couldn’t love anyone who didn’t think that dancing on a table to ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ at full blast was the pinnacle of human pleasure. It was then and it still is now. No argument. In recent years the reunited Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy have focussed on producing a trio of albums culminating in this year’s ‘Hidden City’ that, for the most part, stand respectably alongside their highpoints of ‘Love’ and ‘Electric’. They are clearly rejuvenated and tonight they were on devastating form.

Refreshingly, Astbury is far removed from the self important Xerox of Jim Morrison that I’d imagined. He’s down to earth, very funny and in alarmingly good voice. A true performer, he works the crowd like a pro; at one moment observing that, “There’s always one bald, middle-aged man yelling at me to ‘Get on with it!’” to taking us on a trip down memory lane during ‘Gone’ to the Leeds of the eighties, full of Tetley Bittermen and un-asked-for violence.  At one point, in the middle of ‘Sweet Soul Sister’ he strays into ‘Lucretia My Reflection and gives a shout out to The Sisters of Mercy’s Andrew Eldritch – a little nod to their own original milieu which made this old goth very happy. It’s also this song, with its lyrics about, ahem, ‘sexual panthers pushing all night long as they hustle and strut’, that Astbury dedicates to International Women’s Day. I don’t doubt he was sincere with the dedication but there’s also a sense of his own ridiculousness at play here.

The setlist was healthy mix of new and old. I wanted ‘Spiritwalker’, ‘Sanctuary’, ‘Rain’, ‘Love Removal Machine’ and ‘Wildflower’. I got them all, perfectly delivered. New material was strong, particularly GOAT (Greatest of All Time) and the title track of the new album. They’ve moved away from the hair metal extravagances of the past and seem to be returning to a more post punk edge. It suits them. That’s not to say that singing along to every daft word of ‘Fire Woman’ isn’t exhilarating but it’s nice to know they’re not standing still.

Now, it’s taken me about 370 words to get to this point but essentially this review only needed to be one sentence long. And that sentence is, “Billy Duffy stood on the stage with his Gretsch White Falcon guitar and banged out ‘She Sells Sanctuary.’” After all these years, I have finally seen this. It’s probably one of the most wonderful sights and sounds in rock. It’s an understatement but the packed out crowd are clearly in agreement. I have never seen so many people smiling so broadly and singing so loudly in one place before. At this moment, he is the coolest man alive. I’ve found my holy grail and there’s no need to go to another gig again. I’m done. Thank you kindly.

Alan Stewart

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