The Cult, Action Action December 3, 2007, Fillmore Auditorium Better than: Seeing any band with “Guns,” “Revolver,” “Velvet,” “L.A.” or “Roses” in the name.
The show was half-packed with strippers, heshers and goths, none visibly underage. Enough open space lay waiting for a basketball game. We missed opening act the Cliks, but if Action Action’s frontman can be trusted, “They were fucking awesome!” Full disclosure, however, reveals that the audience was also fucking awesome, furthermore he claimed that we were “Fucking a great crowd.” The great crowd he was referring to are friends of mine, but I swear I never touched them, they’re not my type.
Action Action bears a resemblance to The Killers and My Chemical Romance, with a hard-edged, new-wave hyphen-ated feel. Several Oasis-haired youths in thrift store military jackets, each ignoring the keyboards in front of them, shelled out high energy alt-rock with a decent amount of effort. Take the best singer out of a Colorado Springs sized town, throw him in with a guitarist with no chosen major and an enthusiastic big-sticked drummer. The bass player stole the show with boundless energy and misplaced head-banging antics. Also, he played the keyboards once with a real gravely tone. A contingent of college kids were on hand as support, and knew the songs in case the band forgot. When the two Actions eventually settled on a heavy Elvis Costello persona, the Hooter…I mean Jagermeister girls brought them out shots. Action Action were fucking O.K.
The Cult was loud. The focus was crowd favorites and incendiary new material. The heavy mix was well chosen to get denim shaking. Ian Astbury is perhaps the greatest tambourine player of our time, still no one cares. He should give it up. It’s that voice they want, there’s as much power in that voice as ever and the folks want it. But the soundman wasn’t having it. During the gentler singing bits, all was well. But he must’ve blown out the amplifier with all the crackle when he really got going. The band’s sound fared much better. Billy Duffy aimed the guitar stock skyward and manipulated it like an extra appendage. Easily on par with Slash, his confidence in his ability doesn’t come through as cockiness. In fact, for all its showmanship, The Cult has avoided the sleaziness and rock cliches that this writer couldn’t in just three paragraphs. Ex-Exodus dummer John Tempesta laid down an incredible foundation, bashing like a cartoon blacksmith. Equally animated rhythm guitarist Mike Dimkich looked out of place in white scarf and tennis shoes, hipster glasses and stretch jeans. His curly hair parted on the side gave the impression of an Alfie era Michael Caine chugging and jumping along with Cheap Trick. Chris Wyse supplied ample groove, slapping, strumming and matching Duffy’s fire with a thick bass clatter.
A three-song introduction served as an appetizer to the hungry fans, the second of these being “Electric Ocean” and “Lil’ Devil.” Astbury then addressed the audience, mumbled something that sounded like “This is our favorite place to play.” After the explosive, strobe enhanced “I Assassin” from the new release, the rarity “The Witch” was an unexpected but welcome choice. It’s here that Astbury had a confusing exchange with bird-flipping attendees, whom Astbury encourages to “Get in touch with your feminine side” and the sound problems escalated. Fortunately, the non-bird-flippers helped out on a rousing version of “Revolution,” healing whatever rift had just occurred. “Edie (Ciao Baby)” followed, adding to the pleasure of the fist-pumping audience. Dissatisfied with the applause level, Astbury suggested they consider the stage a giant TV screen and pretend they were in their own living rooms before busting into “Rise,” to which they rose. “Savages” met with milder response, so it was up to the big hit “Fire Woman” to bring the crowd back on board.
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The lights came down, spotlight on Mr. Duffy, with his acrobatic felanges and pedal-stomping footsies, the appreciative fans unclear where exactly he was taking this. One by one, the light bulbs turned on as “Phoenix” made its way through the rippage. Tastefully brief bass and drum solos showcased the musicians while maintaining the band’s integrity. I believe this was where Astbury threw his tambourine to the fans, who reacted like wolves thrown a steak. Oddly, their sleaziest, stonesiest, Aerosmithiest moment came next in the form of “Dirty Little Rock Star.” Something snapped in Tempesta, as after the song he threw his sticks offstage like a hatchets and kicked his stool. No word on if this outburst was fueled by rage or if he was overcome with enthusiasm -- I seem to recall another tambourine headed his direction. He recovered in time for “Wildflower.”
Unless The Cult wants a riot on their hands, they are obliged to perform “She Sells Sanctuary,” which they injected with a refreshing, amped-up tempo. This caused some mayhem in the ill-formed pit as a scuffle broke out. Blows were traded, chests pumped and fingers pointed. Astbury played referee, accusing one brawler, “I’ve been watching you, you’re the most violent one out there.” Dude protested, thinking himself the voice of reason. Other dude recused himself from the proceedings to the rear of the hall. No call from the peanut gallery. Astbury threatened that if the crowd wants more music, they’d better chill out. He then instructed them to, “Check this out.” The band left the stage and a film showed on the backdrop to the tune of “Tiger in the Sun.” As footage of protesting monks in former Burma, now Myanmar rolled, the concert-goers engaged in conversation, though not likely the political sort The Cult likely hoped to inspire.
Against all odds, the band returned for the defacto encore. Another tambourine appeared. “Born Into This” is a fantastic representation of their career, a meaty, ballsy rocker. Duffy unashamedly thanked Jagermeister and the audience, then launched into an electrifying, nipple-hardening version of “Love Removal Machine.” Tempesta ensured the finality of the performance by tossing his kick drum and punishing the rest of his kit. In the mad rush to appropriate Jagermeister concert banners, the deafened kids forgot to demand more music even though the roadies take their sweet time filling the stage. -- Rick Skidmore
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: Now that Astbury is getting in touch with his masculine side, it turns out I prefer him with long hair, makeup and frills. Who knew? Random Detail: Though it was touted initially as a cold remedy, Jagermeister looks, smells and tastes like Absorbine Jr. By the Way: Rhythm- free frat boys can spend the whole day together, but still find it necessary to chat each other up in the middle of the song. The concert setting allows them the opportunity to rub cheeks and blow in each others’ ear. Get a room.