For The Cult, it was a titanic battle: the Godfather of Shock Rock versus the Lizard King of Cool, all played out in front of 20,000 people at the Thames-side venue, winner takes all.
The Cult – O2, London – 25 May 2022
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Robert Sutton
Whilst both have long histories, both Alice Cooper and The Cult provided a masterclass on how to do a rock show that leaves most of the crop of modern bands in their dust. The Alice Cooper review can be found at metaltalk.net/alice-cooper-still-at-the-top-of-his-game-the-monster-is-unstoppable.php
In contrast to what was to come, the stage was stripped bare for The Cult, a huge backdrop the only concession. What Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy and band brought was just a stripped-back reliance on great songs, a connection with the audience and the power of volume, all backed by self-belief. Nothing else was needed.
From the sweeping organ tones of Mike Mangan through to the last, howling note, this was, as Astbury kept declaring, a rock ‘n’ roll show. Opening with a snarling Sun King, even Duffy’s Wah Wah peddle had attitude, the band committed to filling the cavernous space of the O2 with noise.
The titanic groove of Automatic Blues and the rattlesnake shimmy of the guitar heightened the pneumatic bounce of Sweet Soul Sister to another level entirely. Throwing himself totally into the performance, the frontman leapt from the stage into the pit, face to face with the audience during Soul Asylum, his interaction with the crowd constant.
A mountain-flattening Edie (Ciao Baby) and muscular swagger of Aphrodisiac Jacket paved the way for a version of Lil’ Devil that was nothing short of thrilling, the only kink being a slightly bewildered and bemused Astbury losing his tambourine under the drum riser following over-exuberantly kicking it across the stage.
The singer soon bounces back, the suitably tempestuous Wild Flower and a tongue in cheek Mick Jagger impression during Fire Woman showing his mojo is well and truly intact.
Whilst the feral rock ‘n’ roll was at full tilt, there was still space for a truly touching moment amongst the hedonism as Astbury brings out a Ukrainian flag that he drapes over the amps, his vocal on the following Revolution powerful and transcendent. It was just down to the following propulsive psychedelia of Rain and the twin wrecking balls of She Sells Sanctuary and Love Removal Machine to wipe out any last vestiges of resistance.
Duffy’s stylish and driving riffs, the freight train rhythm section of John Tempestra’s drums and the bass of Charlie Jones, along with Mike Mangan’s keys, provided the perfect vehicle for the totemic frontman. The Cult are built for arenas and stadiums, the material played with a commitment and power that leaves no room for doubt. First blood to them.