Upon arrival at the venue, the whole of Exeter's aging, balding male population (and the odd female) had congregated to pay homage to a band that had major success in the mid to late 80's and (in my opinion) further success, albeit of a lesser quantity into the 90's and beyond.
The Cult released their game changing, Rick Rubin produced album 'Electric' in 1987 to a wall of astonished goth rock influenced fans, where had the leather gone? where were the frilly shirts and face paint? Indeed folks, they had taken a brave step in 1986 to call on the assistance of Rick Rubin to capitalise on the sudden emergence and popularity of many metal outfits on the scene, a gamble that paid dividends and secured a place for The Cult on the musical map forever more.
So, what of the show on Saturday 19th October in Exeter, well, I took my place on the balcony to check out Bo Ningen who claim to be 'Enlightenment activists from the far east psychedelic underground scene'. Upon first glance, you wouldn't be mistaken if you thought that the singer/bass player and guitarist had just walked in from a David Koresh appreciation event held in a commune set up on the outskirts of the city, they wore neck to toe dresses in black and red respectively, and weaved about the stage in a very interesting manner. Their sound was a blend of psych-noise-dream-rock (is that a new genre I created?). Sat on the balcony, I could not 'see' they were Japanese, I tried as hard as I could to understand what they were saying in-between tracks but succumbed to the fact that even they may not have known what they were saying in-between tracks, so I did what all good journo's do in these circumstances and made a beeline for the bar to further refresh myself.
I made damned sure I was in prime position for the arrival of Messrs Astbury, Duffy, the bass player, rhythm guitarist and drummer (whose names escape me at the moment, lets's refer to them as Barry, Harry & Larry)….They took to the stage with their usual confidence, Astbury clad in a leather waistcoat with the tail of a fox hanging from his pocket, Duffy, well, he's as cool as fuck so it doesn't really matter what he wears does it?
When the noise died down, Duffy tore into the opening riff of Wildflower and much jumping up and down ensued. Peace Dog and Lil' Devil followed with a similar amount of crowd excitement driving the band on to perform their classic wares to the eager crowd, waiting to lap it all up. I was amazed at the amount of adrenaline amongst the crowd, I am sure someone was handing out Berocca and other vitamin supplements just inside the doors.
Duffy was doing what he does best with an array of guitars, most commonly, his signature Gretsch 'Billy Duffy' Falcon which is suited purely to his playing style, he also tore up the stage with his Gibson Les Paul Gold Top and a very sweet looking/sounding black Gibson Les Paul Custom. Astbury on the other hand had clearly just signed for a consignment of Chinese made tambourines from eBay, the rate he was chucking these into the crowd was almost comical, I guess some bald ageing Cult fan woke up this morning, wondering where it had come from and why it was in his possession….The other guys hit drums, plunked bass strings and generally kept the rhythm going.
Once the last notes of Memphis Hip Shake had rung out, the band exited the stage and a video was played, I can't recall the exact nature of it, something to do with an Indian settlement maybe? They returned to the stage (cue rapturous applause and much use of the word 'yaiya') which sadly was a phrase that Astbury refrained from using on the night but was heavily dropping in every verse of 'Electric' tracks back in 87'. We waited eagerly to see how much of the second set would contain classic material versus the newer fodder that, dare I say it, not many people would be as familiar with…..(well, you all know what I mean). There were a couple of tracks from albums post 'Electric', I did recall Sweet Soul Sister and Firewoman, we were later treated to perfectly executed versions of Rain, She Sells Sanctuary and Nirvana, which for me, really made the evening complete.
I would have loved to have heard Revolution rather than more of their newer material but hey ho, you can't grumble can you (well, you can but where does it get you?). The band wrapped up shortly after 11pm, heading back to their riders of organic carrot juice, cocoa and warmed jim jams whilst the cliche looking roadies took to the stage to dismantle the rig prior to heading off to Southampton to continue the tour. You always know the seniority of a roadie by the size of their belly and their ponytail...
All in all, a great night. We did have a bit of a 'to do' with one of their managers who was asking me not to take photographs of the band, despite me having a green 'I am more important than you' pass that clearly said that I could take photographs, I think it was because I was holding the camera the wrong way and may have offended the band had they caught sight of me….as it was, I didn't actually take any usable pictures of the band, we did manage to get a lovely shot of Duffy's pedal board (below) and some great action shots of Bo Ningen (above), so all was not lost.
Any after thoughts or remarks? well, as I said earlier, Duffy could have walked on wearing a flower sack and a pair of wellies and still looked like the dog's bollocks, he is such a cool motherfucker, long may he continue to ooze it from every pore, Astbury has clearly put on a few pounds, whether this was caused by rock n' roll excess or just too many pies, whichever, his voice was on form and he played the ever present front man, dancing about like Jim Morrison on the stage, I believe he did make contact with the surviving members of The Doors to 'lay down some shit', I heard this was not a great success and he hung up his 'Lizard King' trousers and necklaces long before anyone could get hold of the material.
As for Harry, Barry and Larry, they played their roles well, the drummer and bass player were tight and worked well together, the rhythm guitar did exactly what he should have been doing and really assisted in complementing Duffy's wailing solo work.
Would I see them again? doubtful……don't get me wrong, it was a kick ass night of rock n' roll, they played their best album in its entirety, followed by some classics that really made my evening. If I ever get invited to witness their newer material, I think I'd rather be at home, wrapped up in my snuggle blanket with a copy of Love and Electric on vinyl, trapped in my 80's bubble….. Goodnight, thank you and Yaiya !!
Photos by Julian Baird