Concert Review: The Cult Keeps its Following

British rockers The Cult brought their loud, gritty rock to a packed Roseland Theater in Portland on Monday night playing their iconic 1987 album Electric in its entirety amongst a boisterous 23-song, two-hour long set.

The Cult hit it big in the mid-1980s and for whatever reason fail to receive credit for ushering in grunge rock. Their brash, hard power-chord brand of music pre-dates the so-called grunge movement of the early 1990s, supposedly borne by Nirvana and Pearl Jam, by nearly a decade. Yet stand-outs like “Peace Dog” and “Spiritwalker” somehow get lost on those who opine in the music industry.

Celebrating 30 years, The Cult retains the distinguished vocals of Ian Astbury and the guitar work of Billy Duffy, both original members.  The current lineup with Chris Wyse on bass and John Tempesta on drums has been intact since 2006. The Cult’s sound is prominent and perhaps, at times, comes across analogous in nature (even “Love Removal Machine begins very similar to Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up”) but it’s all overshadowed by the fluid rhythmic harmonies that brought them success in 1985.

A somewhat weak sounding “Wildflower” opened the show followed in order by the rest of Electric. The band performed like a well-oiled machine barely taking a break between songs and cruised through the album with the exception of “Born to Be Wild” which was thankfully replaced with “Zap City.” Even Astbury said his band’s version of “Born” was inferior to the original as he introduced the replacement.

“Bad Fun” and “Peace Dog” were delivered with solid, rock precision and Duffy cracked out a great solo for “King Contrary Man.” The Cult finished what amounted to the first set with “Honey from a Knife.” The band left the stage for five minutes leaving the audience with a bizarre, very pixilated video to watch before returning with the fantastic “Rain.”

The video wasn’t the only sour note to the evening. The Cult failed to take the stage for an hour after opening band White Hills ended their set. Once 45 minutes passed with no Cult members in sight the audience barked noises of their own urging Astbury and company to get going. Finally around 9:45 did the lights go dark. What’s even more insulting is Astbury asked the audience how many needed babysitters for the weekday evening.

So, he recognizes the sacrifice of his fans yet takes his sweet time getting the show underway. Children like Justin Bieber and Madonna abuse such privileges on their fans but hard rockers like The Cult should know better. The tardiness dampened the overall solid performance from the band and 75 minutes in felt more like two hours and it was time to wrap things up.

Additionally, the second half of the show slowed tempo a bit with Astbury engaging more with the crowd. “New York City” was a pleasant surprise and crowd favorite “Sweet Soul Sister” and the genuinely punk rock “Phoenix” helped redeem the stagnant “Lucifer” and “Embers.” Both those songs should have been dropped in favor of “Fire Woman” one of the band’s biggest hits in the United States that was surprisingly left off the setlist.

All was well for the most part once the power of “She Sells Sanctuary” closed out the evening. The Cult encored with “Spiritwalker” and of course, as promised, a long drawn out “Sun King.”

The Cult Portland Setlist (Roseland Theater):

  1. Wild Flower
  2. Peace Dog
  3. Lil Devil
  4. Aphrodisiac Jacket
  5. Electric Ocean
  6. Bad Fun
  7. King Contrary Man
  8. Love Removal Machine
  9. Zap City
  10. Outlaw
  11. Memphis Hip Shake
  12. Honey from a Knife
  13. Rain
  14. New York City
  15. Sweet Soul Sister
  16. Lucifer
  17. Embers
  18. Phoenix
  19. Rise
  20. ?
  21. She Sells Sanctuary
  22. Spirit Walker
  23. Sun King



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