The Cult at Leeds Uni. I can remember saying that a few times in the past. Despite their flit to the states, world wide stadium shows and all that other razzamatazz, it still feels right and proper to me, that the one and only place to truly experience such an iconic band is right on my own doorstep. It’s not far from where they set out from, and, I think it’s fair to say it’s, where they first made their mark.
Like many we’d got down earlyish to the gig to ensure we got a decent spot. No photographers pit privileges for tonight’s gig, we were in the thick of it and wanted to make sure we were front and centre. But more importantly we wanted to make sure we caught the support. Broken Hands were one of the first bands I covered for BMafia back in 2013 . We’ve been keeping an eye on them ever since, catching them live in Leeds just short of a year ago, it was nice to see how the Canterbury outfit had come along. Lead singer Dale is a confident frontman and easily connects with the crowd. The band feel and sound slightly heavier than on our previous encounter. There’s a touch of Sabbath in the riffs and a deeper resonance than before, which see’s them well received by the reputedly tough Northern crowd. Good stuff and a well chosen fluffer for the headliners.
The place is packed to capacity, and despite the sub zero temperatures outside, it’s getting hot inside. The Cult take the stage, and it’s about to go from hot to boiling very, very quickly. The crowd boasts a broad spectrum, – rock fans sporting Def Leppard t-shirts, punk/indie types, goths, old, and new, and many a fawning female. . They’re a testament to The Cult’s wide, universal appeal, and as the classic ‘Rain’ drops into the set only two songs in, the place (or at least round where we are standing) comes very much alive.
Throughout tonight’s show there are moments when its easy to see why The Cult have drawn comparisons at times between greats such as Zepplin and the Doors. And it’s not just the music; Astbury has always had the swagger and presence of a natural frontman. It’s easy to see how he fit the vocal slot in front of Krieger and Manzarek, as he shimmy’s and shakes like our own version of the ‘Lizard King’. The heel kick to the tambourine was genuinely an impressive touch. Speaking of which… I’m not sure what the current going rate on tour budgets is for tambourines these days, but if tonight’s anything to go by, I hope they kept the receipts. We start off with three in easy reach at the front of the drum riser. One gets bounced, one gets smashed and one gets handed to someone in the crowd. Nice touch, and a great momento. And then some more appear. and the same happens again , and again, and again…
We are tauntingly regaled about the bygone days of running the gauntlet of Tetley Bittermen, as you hastily made your way through town, hair all black and back combed. It reminds me that it’s just over 30 years since I first saw the Cult play Leeds Uni. Having seen them in ’82/’83(?) supporting Bauhaus, in their earliest incarnation, Southern Death Cult, and again a few years later at the inception of The Cult. Happy memories, and many a tall tale surround that era and I know I’m not the only one in the crowd that might have gone a bit misty eyed for the days of our youth. ‘Gone’ is dedicated to those memories – “We were only 14. Yeah!”
But enough of the nostalgia trip. Bringing us right back into the here and now, we are treated to, what Ian describes as a new hymn from The Cult, ‘Birds Of Paradise’ from the latest album, ‘Hidden City’. It’s a steadier number and offers a slight breather before we get back into full flow with ‘Sweet Soul Sister’ a song that usually cries out stadium rock. But tonight we’re in smaller, more intimate surroundings, that can hardly contain the tune, as it takes on a much more primal feel. Pointing to a woman in the crowd, Astbury croons ‘Lucretia My Reflection’ and further reflects upon his and Duffy’s goth heritage as he gives praise to the Sisters of Mercy.
It’s International Women’s Day, so what better way to celebrate than with a rousting version of ‘Fire Woman’, complete with an ‘ooga chaka, ooga chaka’ intro. A young lad, who can only have been in his early teens is offered up from the crowd, and becomes another recipient of a tambourine (Secretly I’m well jealous – I wanted a tambourine!) and a quote to go with it – “What kinda man brings his son into somewhere like this? It’s like a Turkish bath house!”
We move towards the set close with ‘Sanctuary’ which draws an only to be expected, glorious response. Left with an eagerness for more, the atmosphere demands a fitting encore. As the band re-take the stage, Astbury tells us that they normally only do two songs for the encore, but tonight on the instance of Mr Duffy -who has spent the evening in front of a, modest for him, stack of classic Marshall amps, has been very much a master in the art of axe wielding – “is feeling special so, we’re going to give you three.” and we fall headlong into a slightly reworked version of ‘Spiritwalker’, ‘G O A T’ and close with the ever powerful ‘Love Removal Machine’.
The Cult ‘Alive in the Hidden City’ tour successfully mixes the best of their back catalogue, with a selection of brand new numbers from their latest album. You get a bit of nostalgia, but you also get a feeling that they still have a lot to offer. Once again they left their indelible mark on Leeds.
GALLERY: click on any pic to see in full size
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