The Cult – Hammersmith Apollo, London

The Cult
Hammersmith Apollo, London
January 21, 2011

When you add up the years, you’ll find Ian Astbury and Billy Dully have been making music as The Cult for a long-ass time. Sitting in the rafters of the Hammersmith Apollo (“Hammersmith Odeon“, Astbury demurs, referring to the venue’s previous appellation), the debt paid to the excesses of rock n’ roll have more-or-less treated both kindly. Astbury, the once flower-child/wolf-child looks a little rough round the edges, but when you style yourself on Jim Morrison and then suddenly become him, what can you expect? Duffy on the other hand, is ageless, looking more like David Beckham‘s older brother than a well-tooled guitar god.

Last year, The Cult were in nostalgia mode, revisiting the psychedelic, revolution-touting album, Love. With a renewed vision, they’ve attempted to reinvent the music business model by releasing ‘capsules’, essentially an EP of new/live music with video content. “We’re going to turn off the jukebox tonight”, Astbury warns the audience, as the band use the evening to air out new material and dust off some rarely played gems, while not forgetting the songs that made The Cult an iconic English rock band.

On stage, Astbury and Duffy clearly enjoy playing live, but the creative spark that gave us “Rain“, “Horse Nation” and “Love Removal Machine”, are absent on the newer, capsule tracks like “Ember” and “Until The Light Takes Us” which darkly lumber along, lacking the same magnetic rock n’ roll spirit or Duffy’s signature riffs. As promised, the setlist sidesteps the expected (no “Fire Woman”) in favour of “Sweet Soul Sister”, and a holy-fuck-really? “Ghost Dance” from the band’s Death Cult days. A mid-set piss-break occurs while Astbury screens a short film, and as the band return, the jukebox is switched back on, queuing up “”Wild Flower”, “Go West” and “She Sells Sanctuary” in sublime succession.

With one foot on the foldback and the neck of his Gretsch Falcon aimed skyward for most of the night, Billy Duffy approaches the microphone to address the crowd with “You’re going to love the next one, it comes with a Billy Duffy Manchester iron clad guarantee seal of approval” as the notes echo out for the band’s 1984 debut single “Spiritwalker”. It could’ve, should’ve ended where it all started, but with Astbury clearly missing being Jim Morrison’s stand-in, The Doors “Break On Through” is offered up as a finale with Morrison looking down from Heaven or wherever, thinking “Is that guy really singing one of my songs wearing tracksuit bottoms?”.