I’ve experienced a few gigs by The Cult in my time having first seen them at the Barrowlands in 1994. Everyone of them has had pretty much the same effect on me, brought about by copious amounts of pogoing at the front, all aided by advance hydration in the form of beer beforehand. I am usually hyper and just get down and sweaty on the night.
However, as I am running for Scotland in a few weeks in the 100k championships, I had to forego two of my favourite things when seeing any live music. No bevvy, and definitely no moshing.
And it offered a completely different perspective for me. The Barrowlands is quite simply the best venue I have ever been in. I have seen gigs all around the UK and Ireland, and some abroad, but no matter what, the steaming sweatpit of the grand old dame of Glasgow rock always feels like the right place to see a band. And The Cult know it. Astbury called it true when he compared the Glasgow crowd to Buenos Aires.
With the need for a new perspective in mind, I stood mid-stage, mid-crowd and just soaked the gig up. There was already an air of expectation in the venue, brought about by what appears to be a mini-renaissance for the band, or as we long-standing fans like to believe, a more global realisation that The Cult are indeed still one of the finest and most consistent rock bands left doing the rounds.
The gig opened up with the thumping Dark Energy, taken from the critically acclaimed top-20 album Hidden City. It set the scene for an opening so powerful Superman would have claimed a sicky by Kryptonite poisoning if he’d had to react to it. Rain dropped in next and then Wildflower. It was obvious the band were on top form, and obvious Astbury has released a super-charged mojo into himself. There was to be no mercy as Horse Nation followed the terrific trio which opened the gig.
What I really enjoyed about the gig was the fact that not only were the songs from Hidden City well received, but that the band felt confident enough in their music to drop five of them into the setlist.
Hinterland would be the first of these. The bass resonating around the room and Duffy using his Black Falcon like a weapon of music instruction. That is indeed his choice of weapon. Deeply Ordered Chaos, Birds of Paradise and G O A T all made an appearance and it was the latter in the encore that really stood out as the band eschewed that most Glaswegian of traits, gallusness.
But before all of that, there was classic after classic. It would be easy to talk about the greatness of She Sells Sanctuary or Fire Woman but there were two highlights pre-encore for me. Gone was absolutely rocking in its menace, with Duffy’s guitar sound just so powerful and Astbury driving home his best vocal performance in years. The whole gig was as motivated and engaged as I have ever seen The Cult frontman and it showed in the way the music was received. HIs energy feed off of the crowd’s and vice versa. It was a virtuous circle.
The second highlight was The Phoenix which is just made for being played live. John Tempesta was in danger of drilling a hole to Australia such was the ferocity with which he was hitting the skins.
After a brief interlude, where Astbury to his credit took a fan’s vinyl backstage to sign, Spiritwalker preceded the aforementioned outstanding G O A T and despite getting hurried on as they’d overrun, the band made sure fans went home on massive high with the Love Removal Machine. The sight of Billy Duffy teasing us, pointing to various people in crowd, before launching into the Led Zep inspired closing riff brings a smile to my face every time I think about it.
This was, in The Cult gig terms for me, the greatest of all time.