By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent
Venue: Mahaffey Theater, Saint Petersburg, Florida–April 16, 2016
The Cult is on tour promoting their new album Hidden City which was released in February 2016. The album definitely goes back to their hard rock-goth-psych sound of the 80s—which is very welcome in the Millennium with its vastness of banal pop. Rock At Night was there Friday night to catch their appearance at the majestic Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, Florida, the band heads south tonight to Miami and west to Mexico City, before returning stateside again. The band is supported by newcomers (possibly not for long), Iowan rockers Holy White Hounds.
While waiting in the lobby of the Mahaffey, I noticed a mile-long line of Generation X’ers at the merch table buying swarms of black t-shirts and opting for vinyl copies of Hidden City. There were quite a few couples in attendance as one noted in a conversation “I loved The Cult in my teens . I am really looking forward to tonight!” He continued saying that the band was fighting on stage when he saw them back in the 1990s—and hoped it would not happen this evening. Me either.
The evening opened with Holy White Hounds which played a 30-minute set of hard-driving, real rock—with real lead guitar solos and real lyrics. The lyrical theme seemed centered around “women” and each song differed in style a bit—from fast-paced punk to wah-wah psych rock to an almost 80s “The Cars” sound. The set had plenty of dancing colored lights with stenciled daisies and swirling designs. In between songs the lead singer Brenton Dean spoke to the audience and confidently asked the audience, “I know what you are thinking? ‘These guys are pretty good’.” I was actually thinking, “These guys are pretty good and from Iowa, the land of corn and caucuses.” I encourage people to check out their album Sparkle Sparkle as I plan to download it.
Finally, after a quick tear-down and set-up, loud tribal music with thumping drums began playing. The Cult, which consists of two original members, Ian Astbury (vocals) and Billy Duffy (guitar) , as well as Grant Fitzpatrick (drums), John Tempesta (bass), and Damon Fox (keyboards) entered the stage. The Brit “Lizard King” emerged singing 80s classic “Wildflower”—and looking mighty fine and ageless—in his black t-shirt, jacket, and shades. The set was simple—no video screens or pomp—but featured colored lights, a hint of smoke, and down home great hard rock. The acoustics in the Mahaffey are superb so the audio sounded perfectly balanced.
During the song sets, which consisted of recent songs like the moving but rocking ballad “Birds of Paradise”, the goth-rock “Dark Energy” and metal-rock “G O A T” (encore), it was hard to distinguish between the new material and the old. This was a good thing!
During the performance, Astbury spoke to the audience between a few song cuts, and seemed perturbed about cell phone use by patrons in the balcony. I thought, “Oh, please don’t let this set you off and get tempermental.” The evening progressed the audience became more demonstrative and the band entered what I call “The Zone”—that fine area of knowing one is killing it. Each song got tighter and Astbury got looser, while Duffy attacked the guitar while performing “Townsend” windmill arm motions. By the time the classic song “Sweet Soul Sister” was playing, the entire ground level was standing and fist pumping while mouthing the words. A couple near me was “Dirty Dancing” to the song and the guy in front of me was twirling a hanky to the music. By the time “Fire Woman” was playing, it was an all out frenzy with the balcony levels standing, dancing, and singing along. I was thinking, “This has to be one of the best concerts this year! They are killing it!” It was like being transported cosmically to the 80s and being engulfed by a thick blanket of wonderful metal music.
I believe there was a very happy crowd last night—and left feeling 30 years younger.
The Cult in St. Pete, Florida
Holy White Hounds – “Switchblade”
- Wild Flower
- Dark Energy
- Horse Nation
- Lil’ Devil
- Birds of Paradise
- Deeply Ordered Chaos
- Sweet Soul Sister
- Fire Woman
- The Phoenix
- She Sells Sanctuary
- G O A T
- Love Removal Machine
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