The Cult Remain Electric

By David Huff
Nostalgia is a funny thing. Depending upon the subject – and tonight it was The Cult in concert – the wistfulness has a way of transporting an individual back in time to relive fascinating moments from your past.

My ‘Spidey’ senses were on full alert the moment I parked the car. The Cult was on the road touring behind the 30th anniversary of their great musical achievement, Sonic Temple. The fact I was entering another iconic venue, The Tabernacle in Atlanta, only added icing to the cake. Entering the theatre I was greeted by a near capacity crowd making this a full-blown party.

The Cult opened the show with “Sun King”. From that moment on, those in attendance were all-in. Vocalist Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy ripped through the first eight selections of Sonic Temple – there are 11 cuts in all – ending the set with the album’s two finest moments.

“Fire Woman” brought a deafening roar from the crowd as Billy Duffy hit the opening chords on his signature Falcon Gretsch. The guitar work was the star of this song. And then it was time for the 57-year old Ian Astbury (his birthday was four days later) to shine with “Edie (Chao Baby). The roar of appreciation from this capacity crowd urging on their conquering heroes was a sight to see.

Billy Duffy of The Cult performing at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, GA. Photo by Chris Eason.

All concerts are personal moments to those attending because the event holds a different meaning for those present. My flashbacks came from staring at Billy Duffy’s companion the past 35 years, his white Gretsch guitar. The music that rolled off Duffy’s fingertips took me down paths I hadn’t thought about in decades.

When the band finished their set with “She Sells Sanctuary”, I found myself fondly remembering the very first time I saw the band perform in concert – the spring of 1986. I can still see Duffy’s long flowing blonde hair and that guitar slung over a white trench coat ripping chords that played equal part psychedelic hard rock interwoven into a bit of new wave goth.

The encore piece “Love Removal Machine” took me to another place in time, Sept. 13 1987. I missed my father’s birthday that evening to get a glimpse, and interview, some ragtag band from Los Angeles called Guns N’Roses, who were opening the show. I would later find myself on the ground floor of rock and roll history as I followed and interviewed Guns the next four months before they hit it big with the release of “Sweet Child of Mine” the following year.

But the piece de resistance was the opening salvo of the show, and the reason for the tour – Sonic Temple. I followed The Cult on the road in 1988 when that album was first released. They first hit the road opening for Judas Priest which was touring behind Ram It Down. That album, ironically, was supposed to the second disc of their groundbreaking Turbo recording released two years earlier. Record company politics interjected itself into the two disc effort, thus Ram It Down was born. But I digress, this is about The Cult.

The highlight of the night for me was “Fire Woman” with “She Sells Sanctuary” a close second. This song was a masterpiece when it was first released with the distinction of being loved by both hard rock / heavy metal fans as well as the alternative set. It easily has stood the test of time. And “She Sells” well, what can you say. The audience couldn’t help but sing-a-long with Ian Astbury as he belted out the lyrics to this other incredible tune that put the band on the map.

I’ll admit I was a bit ticked off the band played nothing off of Ceremony, (the band’s seven-minute opus “White” is nothing short of brilliant), but I heard enough musical moments throughout the evening to sport a smile on my face and nod my head in appreciation.

Like I said in the beginning, there are certain musical recollections in a person’s life that trigger memories you like to relive even if the private moment is ever so brief. It’s a critical reason why music is an important part in people’s lives.

You may not remember all the movies you ever saw in a theatre, but no one forgets the concerts they attended.

Tonight, as I watched Ian and Billy go through their musical motions, it was with pleasure that I whispered a well-deserved ‘thank you’ under my breath. It was a small token of appreciation for all the wonderful times I had shared with The Cult in the present, and especially the past.

– David Huff