As clearly stated, this is The Cult presents Death Cult with Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy darting back to their post-punk and pre-MTV days when they traded under the Southern Death Cult and Death Cult monikers, as well as honouring their first two albums from their more familiar guise.
The Cult Presents Death Cult 8323
3Olympia Theatre, Dublin – 7 November 2023.
Words: Brian Boyle
Photography: Carl Foran
If there were any punters under the presumption that tonight’s show would be littered with big heavyweight hits like Fire Woman, Lil’ Devil, Love Removal Machine, Wild Flower and Edie (Ciao Baby), then the evening could have been a very long one indeed.
Early in the week gigs are, as we say in Dublin, “a pain in the hole.” Especially if, like me, you’re a 50-plus VAT-year-old facing the rest of the working week. Having been given a private box with a red velvet armchair softens the blow somewhat. But aside from tongue-in-cheek bragging, a night with Astbury and Duffy any night of the week is enough to quell any doomery.
Even the waft of some strange incense sprayed around the stage that had the stench of a bad hospital chowder couldn’t dampen the anticipation in the room.
To some, tonight’s material might have been a virgin listen. I will admit to sitting in a nearby Burger King before the gig, earpods in, ketchup all over my chins and cramming in some of the lesser spotted tunes.
After a lengthy intro tape, 83rd Dream set the tone perfectly. Although not exactly a wrecking ball of an opener, it still put you straight into a mindset that this was going to be a treasured evening.
Both donned in black, Astbury and Duffy’s onstage demeanour has always been hard to read. They don’t do happy clappy, smiley smiley, and this material certainly doesn’t call for that anyway.
But Astbury was in a cracking mood all night. He’s always been a compelling frontman. He doesn’t need to jump around like a sugar-injected David Lee Roth. His snake-like swagger and commanding stance are enough for him to weave you into his world.
On Christians, he gave it the whole nine yards and, in the process, smashed his tambourine to smithereens. He later raised the temperature with a hopping Resurrection Joe.
As for Duffy, well, he has to be the most understated guitar hero you’ll ever have the pleasure to witness. Barely raising his head all night, the Manchester City nut laid the foundations as only he can on Death Cult gems God’s Zoo, Brothers Grimm and Ghost Dance. His famous low-slung Gretsch White Falcon still emanates those famous tone, no doubt making his discs bulge.
Glancing around from my ivory tower, the opening notes to most tunes appeared to have the crowd open-mouthed in wonder. Death Cult’s Horse Nation and Hollow Man from The Cult’s second album Love enthusiastically rolled off the lips of the majority.
That’s exactly what we came for tonight. A celebration and taking forward of the past, and boy, have these songs matured nicely. The two lads aren’t trying to recapture their youth. They just embrace it, and their vigour on Dreamtime and big boy Rain monumentally proved that.
And for the encore, we all knew what was brewing. Astbury returned modelling a no doubt exuberantly overpriced Death Cult hoodie, letting his impressive mane roam free. Then Duffy unassumingly set free the opening chimes of She Sells Sanctuary. No exaggeration. This was toe-curling, nipple-hardening, hair-raising stuff.
Ageing and balding diehards forget they were half crippled. They bounced unashamedly on the well-trodden floor as they lost themselves in Post-Punk and Gothic abandon.
With a near concrete promise from Astbury of a return next year, most likely in their regular day job, I doubt this will be the last time they delve deep into their career again.
With Duffy not hanging about long enough to receive the deafening applause he deserved, his willing partner looked like he didn’t want to leave. What might have started as a sceptical night for a few would have undoubtedly ended as one that will live long in the memory.
An absolute belter of an evening. An exhilarating display of Classic Gothic Rock.