September 3, 2013
ACL Moody Theater
Austin, TX USA
Review by Justin Press
The 3-minute F#ck is sometimes better than the 8-minute Groan
Compact, concise, bare bones, no frills, however you want to describe The Cult's third release Electric, there is no denying that it still sounds as fresh and stark as it did in 1987. And reproducing the album in its entirety (26) years later, live at the ACL Moody Theater, was a lesson in staying loose yet painting within those very riff-filled lines. The Cult, now on their second "album" tour (2012 saw the band go out on the Love tour), reproduced the album musically succinct to a healthy crowd of 30 and 40-somethings who cut their teeth on its jagged edges.
Keeping in line with the record's stripped down premise, the stage was set with the bare minimum: amps, zero drum riser, and a large video screen that served as more of a place holder as it showed single-frame images instead of running video. Opening with the groove-filled "Wild Flower", the female contingent of the audience was up and hip swinging immediately. As a matter of fact, it was a 55/45% split of female to male ratio this evening in Austin, owing to the fact that The Cult was always a female-friendly hard rock act, battleship ready, but delivered in a velvet glove. The time appropriate "Peace Dog" still relies on the riff of The Doors' "Peace Frog" but with the same thrilling effect. And that is what we see developing thru the Electric set, that its guitarist Billy Duffy's album, just layer upon layer of producer Rick Rubin guided riffs along with strong melodic grooves and a generous helping of AC/DC Young Brothers' stop/start precision.
After the familiar AOR radio killer "Lil Devil", "Aphrodisiac Jacket" and "Electric Ocean" varied the proceedings adding more texture and sensuality as the former feeds off the leftover bits of "Rain" from Love. While the latter hits upon the realm of another Rubin client, Danzig, and that desert-themed blues-rock the he became known for. Side 2 live of Electric begins with the band's most hyper-kinetic song, "Bad Fun", all riffs and drum fills. At this point it's about high time to discuss vocalist Ian Astbury, who admit tingly was missing notes and cues but left it up to "being rock and roll" to do as such. Granted his voice sounded pristine and rich but his stage movements were regulated to the mic stand and some slight dance shuffling, the focus now was on the music, the sideshow was left back in the rehearsal studio. The pinnacle at this point was the opening riff to "King Contrary Man", still a monster track with images of sinners lighting up the back screen. The track is lock-step rock and roll and will always define the Electric concept of simplistic hard rock anchored by solid melodies and sing-able riffs. The track that began it all "Love Removal Machine" did exactly what it was intended to do, it got the ex-frat boys yelling and the mom's on retreat dancing, though for those who desired more of a metallic sting, we had to wait until the song's thunderous breakdown ...that's when things really got moving. It was about then you witnessed the band start hitting its cylinders. No more miscues, just full steam ahead professionalism accentuated by Duffy's fluid streetwise playing.
Forgoing the cover of "Born To Be Wild" for the more interesting B-side "Zap City" proved to be a great play as it showcased the power of the band at that time, when even their studio leftovers were exercises in great hard rock statements. "Outlaw" was by the numbers stuff leading into quite possibly the best track on the album in that is foretold of where the band was headed on the follow-up Sonic Temple. It was full of swagger, intermittent solos layered upon solid grooves and Astbury's best snake-dance shamanistic performance of the evening. It was their "When The Levee Breaks" off of their LZ IV.
So it was completed, clocking in at a mere: 38 minutes. There was not a spare note wasted as the band was determined to keep it tight and nuance-free. Unlike the heavy atmosphere of their 2012 Love trek, this tour celebrated the ability to say more with less and reaffirm the statement that Electric laid down years ago, that the 3-minute fuck is sometimes better than the 8-minute groan.