Live Review: Cage The Elephant at Unity Works Wakefield

Two songs in and crazed Cage the Elephant frontman Matt Shultz has already plunged into the crowd to have a good natured wrestle down the front with his surprisingly young fans.

Matt is like a wild animal onstage leaping around as if processed by the sheer spirit of rock and roll combining the sinuous moves of David Johansen, the energy of early Dave Lee Roth and more than a touch of Mick Jagger.

It all makes for a hugely entertaining show as you literally do not have a clue what Matt might do next or when he might dive back into the crowd.

But energy itself is not enough as boy bands move around a lot- but they are shite – whereas Cage The Elephant have four decent albums behind them, including Melophobia which picked up a Grammy nomination. Tonight in this packed old co-op hall they mainly focus on their new one Tell Me I’m Pretty which on this showing is their best yet.

The band say the new album is a reflection on their life growing up dirt poor in Bowling Green, Kentucky to the extent Matt’s older Brother/rhythm guitarist Brad in his hand me down clothes was regularly taunted as ‘ poor boy’ by the rich kids.

It is that anger that seems to fuel this powerful show by a band at the top of their game. Brad spends most of the gig singing along with his brother when his fist isn’t pumping urging the sell-out crowd to go even wilder. They really connect with those in the hall who feel like outsiders, or not in the cool crowd, which creates a charged atmosphere.


The new album has quite a woozy, psychedelic air but tonight the six musicians strip it back so it is far more in your face which really works in this beautiful space. Their blue collar shtick informs opener Cry Baby and Spider Head from Melophobia sparks Matt’s first crowd invasion.

Cold Cold Cold from the new album sparks a mini-riot before things are taken down with the mournful Sweet Little Jeanie written about the abduction and murder of a young girl from the area they grew up in that changed their teenage years. Trouble is a superior ballad with an edge as Matt sings ‘trouble on my right/trouble on my left/I’ve been facing trouble almost all my life.’ A view seemingly shared by the middle aged man singing along with his arms raised up to the rafters.


Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked – inspired by a drug dealer Matt used to work with – is a stone cold classic which they played like Beck on acid, and it was perfectly coupled with the punky Portuguese Knife Fight. A spirited Punching Bag even managed to prompt laid-back bassist Daniel Tichenor into a mini –shuffle egged on by a fist pumping Brad.

Give their tough upbringing the Shultz siblings know they have won the musical equivalent of the lottery which gives their live shows a rare joy fuelled by overcoming the odds. If they aren’t the best live act currently on the circuit then they are pretty damn close, so next time they are in the UK make a date for some top class onstage craziness.

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