Live Review: The Cult @ Rock City

On the first leg of their U.K Sonic Temple tour, 80s rockers The Cult hit Rock City.


Any music lover has a song that is perfect to listen to in the car. The Cult’s songs are transcendent, timeless, and made to be amped up to full volume. One of the first times I completely comprehended just how remarkable The Cult are was with the windows of the car rolled down, speakers blaring; my mum screeched every lyric of Fire Woman like her life depended on it with our hair blowing in the wind.


From the post-punk, Gothic rock classic Love (1985) and Sonic Temple (1989) to the heavier hard rock Beyond Good and Evil (2001), the atmosphere built throughout The Cult’s entire discography transports you to somewhere else entirely. It is safe to say that I was brimming with anticipation and excitement when I entered Rock City to finally see them live, as was my auntie – a life-long fan of the band.

Image credit: Press.

Supporting The Cult were The Last Internationale, and nobody else could have warmed up the eager crowd better. Their set began ominously, with the stage dimly lit and a voice-over by Gil Scott-Heron stating ‘the revolution will not be televised’, which echoed in my ears as their first song started. I was eager to see what else was to come, my first impression being that the band must be political in their music. This assumption was confirmed by the song Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Indian Blood, which featured progressive lyrics encouraging us to ‘reclaim the streets’. I could clearly see the influence of bands like Rage Against the Machine on their music due to the political undertones of their songs.

'It was refreshing to see such a talented woman as not only the lead singer, but also the bass player'.

Comprised of lead singer Delila Pez – who skilfully played the bass throughout – and guitarist Edgey Pires, the band brought their New York ferociousness and spirit to Nottingham. Wanted Man was spectacular; Pez’s powerful vocals had me awestruck, and the tone of her voice reminded me of Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, but was heavier and huskier, with an American edge. It was refreshing to see such a talented woman as not only the lead singer, but also the bass player. Pires did not go unnoticed either, confidently dancing around the stage to display his talent at playing the abundance of punchy riffs. The interaction with the audience from them both encouraged us to (albeit quite tunelessly at first) sing along to Wanted Man – a highlight that had me adding them to my Spotify almost immediately after they finished their set.


As the lights dimmed and the crowd begun to whistle and jeer, I knew it was time for The Cult to emerge. The atmosphere was charged – you could feel the anticipation in the air as the tinkling of the cymbals and ethereal guitar notes first played. As most lifelong fans are aware, lead singer Ian Astbury often picks up one of the many tambourines on stage as soon as he enters and indeed expectedly this is what he did, earning many cheers. With Billy Duffy on guitar, John Tempesta on drums, Damon Fox on keyboard and Grant Fitzpatrick on bass, we knew we were in for a storm. Sun King was the perfect beginner as the first track of the Sonic Temple album, followed by Wild Flower, Automatic Blues and American Horse. It was only shortly after this that Duffy and Astbury both expressed their adoration for Rock City, saying ‘this room is incredible’ and additionally noting its history, stating how they intentionally chose this venue first over elsewhere in the UK. It then felt especially poignant to stand in the venue knowing their love for it.

Image courtesy of Rozz Cottrell.

The whistling, dynamic first notes that enveloped me next were that of Sweet Soul Sister, a perfect following track – calmer, but just as iconic, encouraging the audience to sing along to the catchy chorus. Soul Asylum only added to the ambience, with Astbury’s alluring, intoxicating voice singing of ‘an everlasting kiss’. This track only gave more opportunity for Duffy to show his artistry, which he did remarkably. When the dark, deep bellow of the guitar in Rise began, a mosh-pit began next to me almost immediately and when it ended, Astbury urged the audience to not ‘go timid’ for the next track, american gothic. The choice to include two of these heavier rock songs on the tour was executed well, as it set the entire audience alight.

'The atmosphere was charged – you could feel the anticipation in the air as the tinkling of the cymbals and ethereal guitar notes first played'.

Hearing Spiritwalker next was surreal, the mystical and enigmatic lyrics perfectly suited to the aura created by the layering of the guitar, bass and drums. After this, Astbury explained how it ‘still feels fresh after all these years […] 1984, some of you weren’t even born then’, which shows how enduring their music is and how passionate they all are about even their oldest tracks. The drizzle of the next song’s riff was instantly recognisable as Firewoman, which had everyone jumping up and down and singing along; the enthusiasm of the audience was completely infectious. During the encore, everyone anticipated the exhilarating and arguably more familiar She Sells Sanctuary before the band finished, which did not disappoint. The very first notes of the song have always been exceptionally evocative and poignant, sustaining the unearthly tone and upbeat rhythm of their most successful tracks.

'The Cult are a reminder that without themselves and others like them, it is likely that the alternative and rock music scenes would not be as it is today. They are not only proudly of the 80s and 90s, but of the present'.

The Cult are a reminder that without themselves and others like them, it is likely that the alternative and rock music scenes would not be as it is today. They are not only proudly of the 80s and 90s, but of the present; they have an immortal place in the contemporary music industry due to their endlessly catchy classics, the sentimental attachment to their songs of lifelong fans, and the myriad enchanting songs in their collection. I really hope that I am fortunate enough to see them again, as it was not a concert to miss.

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