Sydney, Australia's the Black Ryder opened the show with an impressive array of songs that seemed to overt take some overt cues from modern psychedelic rock bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre and early Verve. But Aimee Nash's undeniable mystique and unaffected charisma helped to give the music a different flavor from the band's obvious influences. The moodily melodic swirl in the guitar tone and rhythms that shifted gracefully between wandering and direct gave the band the ability to be soothingly hypnotic and magnetic at the same time.
Before the Cult took stage, it was preceded by an image of a crystal skull that served as kind of a logo for this tour, of "L'America," as indicated on the tour shirt and a clear reference to the Doors. When Ian Astbury came out in sunglasses and a leather jacket he looked like a latter day Jim Morrison, had good old Mr. Mojo Rising faked his death and took better care of himself while letting everyone think he was still interred at Père Lachaise. Everyone in the band seemed to have a renewed sense of purpose and Astbury was quick with the humor and commentary throughout the show.
Opening with the excellent new song, "Every Man and Every Woman is a Star," the Cult proved its artistic viability, since the song didn't sound like the guys were trying to rehash old glory so much as challenge themselves to make music as good as any of the band's classics. After breaking the egg of new material with the first song, the Cult kicked into a version of "New York City" that sounded more robust than the version you can hear on Sonic Temple. But this was true of virtually all of the older material the band played and it did pick liberally from its back catalogue, with material from Love, Electric, the aforementioned Sonic Temple, Ceremony and its underrated 2007 album Born Into This making an appearance.
During "Sweet Soul Sister," images of black power figures were projected into the background and at one point Astbury did the fist salute made famous by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City while the faces of Angela Davis, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton filled the screen in turn. Following that song, Astbury asked us if we had been paying attention to what was going on outside of Colorado, calling it a disaster. Then he told us "White" was inspired by Jeremiah Johnson.
At different points in the show, Astbury and others threw tambourines into the audience and he tried to make sure a girl in a Union Jack outfit got one because she had been dancing like crazy all night. When some other guy got the tambourine, Astbury cajoled the guy into giving it to the girl since she had worked for it and the guy in question had been standing still all night. That probably didn't make the guy happy but it seemed like a really cool, gracious gesture.
The set proper ended with a powerful rendition of "She Sells Sanctuary" and the band left the stage, leaving its movie Prelude to Ruin consisting of apocalyptic images and ambient music worthy of a southwestern take on The Quiet Earth, to play in its entirety. After, the group came back on and did two more songs. The show came to a close, appropriately enough, with an electrifying take on "Love Removal Machine." If the band had been saving up any of its energy, it discharged that energy during the final song and to a person, the members of the Cult rocked out harder than they had up to that point.
Set List 1. "Every Man and Every Woman is a Star" 2. "New York City" 3. "Phoenix" 4. "Rain" 5. "Sweet Soul Sister" 6. "White" 7. "I Assasssin" 8. "Sun King" 9. "Nirvana" 10. "Embers" 11. "Naturally High" 12. "Fire Woman" 13. "Wild Flower" 14. "She Sells Sanctuary"
Encore 15. ? 16. "Love Removal Machine"
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: Always thought The Cult was better than the bulk of its accidental peers in the '80s and '90s. Random Detail: Chris Wise kept throwing picks with his name on them into the audience throughout the show. By the Way: This crowd seemed to have pre-weeded out the worst of the aggressive jerks.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.