The Cult –
Northwell Health Jones Beach Theater, Wantagh, NewYork, USA July 27th, 2018
Set List: Wild Flower/Rain/Rise/The Witch/Elemental Light/Edie (Ciao Baby)/Sweet Soul Sister/She Sells Sanctuary/The Phoenix/Firewoman/Love Removal Machine.
The Cult - where do I start…I recall listening to The Love and Electric albums during my high school days, but, for me true Cult love bloomed when I heard 'Sonic Temple'. I know perfectly well that long time Cult aficionados may scoff at someone who jumped on board a few years later than most. Still hearing the Bob Rock produced, massively popular album that launched The Cult into the world of heavy rock multitudes was what made me a believer.
The 1980s was a decade dominated by MTV and rock-oriented music filling sold out football stadiums. With the visual aspect of music videos, for the first time fans were able to view their favorites in the comfort of their homes. Therefore, artists understood the importance of this media avenue. With videos for 'Fire Woman' and 'Edie', (which was shot in the Wall Street area of New York City), The Cult was able to reach a much larger audience.
Being easy on the eyes, as with many artists whose faces graced television sets, females now rivalled male fans on the Cult front lines. For many female music aficionados, like myself, it is the music that draws but if the gentlemen in the band are attractive; it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Personally, I have watched The Cult perform many times over the years. The band has had a revolving door of talent throughout the years; one a close friend of mine. Each member had their roll contributing a piece of themselves aiding in the creation of the musical brilliance for which The Cult is known.
Founding members Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy have remained the primary songwriters and organizers of anything Cult. Duffy, an occasional sharp tongued Mancurian, is fiercely intelligent and an intently, gifted guitarist. While I detest the word 'underrated' in Billy’s case, he disdains flash and fanfare in favor of reminding a focused technical wizard whose guitar tone is rich with passion. Astbury is a strong front man who is not afraid to speak his mind but still mindful and protective of his loyal following. His vocals send chills up spines and his esoteric stage presence holds every eye in the audience.
The duo is joined by long time member, powerhouse drummer John Tempesta, and Elf alumni Damon Fox who is an intimidating presence but one of the sweetest characters I have come across. He is not only an accomplished keyboardist but he also handles rhythm guitar as accompaniment to Duffy. Along with Aussie bassist Grant Fitzpatrick the bands line up were armed and ready to assault Jones Beach Theater.
I have always been partial to this venue even though it is a bit of a trek from New York City. Originally built for Orchestra, the bandshell stage set up has phenomenal sound for an outdoor theater. Situated on an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, the smell of salt water and distant sound of waves add to the splendor of the setting.
The band shared a bill with Stone Temple Pilots and Bush; rotating the line up at each stop. The Cult went on second the evening of July 27, however the professionalism of the crews on hand assisted in a rapid stage turnover. Combined with state-of-the art LED screens and switching, audio, and lighting, are why performances at this location are among the best in the country. As far as the bands set list; if fans could create the song choices for the evening, it would be this one. Their selections were among their most known and most apt to elicit an intense reaction. In other words-, making the crowd happy as all hell.
The Cult’s songs range from hard edged rock to esoteric melodies to a funky drive. Once the band took the stage the familiar opening chords of 'Wild Flower', a classic from the Electric album set in motion the fan frenzy that accompanies Cult shows worldwide. Closely following was 'Rain' which is not only an arcane example of early Cult but also resulted in bringing on one of the fiercest downpours in the history of the arena.
Granted this outdoor showground is no stranger to torrents. However, it was a bit of an uncanny event. As our friend, Mike Morton, exclaimed, “He (Astbury) made it rain. How did he do that?” The rain did not deter anyone from enjoying the show. We are tough New Yorkers and a little rain is not going to stand between us and a desired music. The band who was watching the tempest from the stage, repeatedly thanked the crowd for braving the elements.
The third song in succession was 'Rise' from 'Beyond Good and Evil'. This remains one of my favorite Cult songs; a powerful hard rock, electrifying configuration. Astbury carried out his traditional tambourine toss with the much-coveted percussion instrument going to a lady to my right. Ian is adamant that the much-desired object meets his chosen target avoiding the onslaught of over gregarious fans. This also allowed him to man his maracas for a stellar performance of 'The Witch'.
It had been many years since I heard the song 'Edie' live. I only cite a handful of rock ballads among my beloved playlist; this is one of them. Granted, Astbury only performed a partial rendition but it was enough to whet the crowds whistle before the song evolved into another Sonic Temple gem 'Sweet Soul Sister'.
With numbers such as 'Fire Woman', 'Love Removed Machine' and 'She Sells Sanctuary' the masses sang, danced, and watched with awestruck expressions. This performance was beyond what many expected and for the hardcore followers; they were not surprised at all as they know these gentlemen will always deliver.
They are an older and wiser Cult. They are a more relaxed Cult. They embrace their flaws and their perfections equally. Even more important they love their fans and their fans will follow them to the ends of the earth. These days whenever The Cult passes through New York, I make every effort to see them and then wish I had attended more shows. Their songs bring back memories and create new ones. Their connection with the audience is as enigmatic as if they reach out and touch each soul.
By Dawn Belotti
Photo of Bassist, Grant Fitzpatrick by Michael Morton