Silver Spring, MD, The Fillmore, 06/12/2012
Rarely does one find such a diverse crowd as the one in downtown Silver Spring’s the Fillmore on the night of June 12, 2012; packed with a variety of goths, hipsters, and rockers from all walks of life. Few bands have managed to attract such a wide range of fans from such divergent styles as The Cult, from the band’s early flirtations with psychedelic goth rock to the later exploration of purebred rock & roll and proto-metal. On this stop during the Choice of Weapon tour, the veterans of post-punk/hard rock saw fit to prove their mettle, sharing the stage with The Icarus Line and Against Me!.
After a dubious opening set by The Icarus Line, a performance that apparently left many in attendance bursting into fits of laughter while others expressed everything from confusion to disdain, it was questionable as to what direction the night would take. Alas, the band’s esoteric brand of scathing punk/metal and scream-O was perhaps too off the beaten path for this audience, mixed as it was. Especially given the no less energetic but more classily treated rock tropes of The Cult’s sound, The Icarus Line was simply not the right band to open the night’s proceedings, no doubt leaving many to wonder if the rest of the show would follow a similar road of incongruity. However, Against Me! would soon lay those concerns to rest with an electric performance of melodic, radio ready rock; a far more appropriate fit with the esteemed headliners. Particularly noteworthy was the band’s choice to perform primarily unreleased material from the upcoming Transgender Dysphoria Blues album, winning over the audience and preparing them for what Against Me! has to offer. As well, credit should be given to Laura Jane Grace, belting out an exuberant display of vocal and guitar prowess and exuding a confidence and comfort that belies the vulnerability hinted at in the lyrics.
10:30pm rolls around, Billy Duffy struts onto the stage with his signature Gretsch White Falcon, tearing into that recognizable and blistering riff audiences know as “Lil’ Devil,” and The Cult emerge like ancient shamans calling down the gods of rock & roll with the stage as their altar. As one of rock’s more formidable and controversial personalities, Ian Astbury was in fine form this evening, shaking the tambourine and displaying the bravado and power that has made him a bona fide star. Despite reports from previous shows on the tour that he was in low spirits, Astbury’s enthusiasm could not be denied, delivering with a smile such hits as “Rain,” “Nirvana,” “Spirit Walker,” and “Fire Woman.” Perhaps this had to do with the attendance of his new wife, but whatever the reason, it was most certainly a welcome change. Having earned a reputation for succumbing to the excesses of the rock & roll lifestyle, it was a pleasure to see Astbury truly enjoying his trade and sharing in it with the audience, at one point even handing the tambourine to a fan who had been singing along to every song.
Duffy, as ever the consummate axeman, wielded his guitars like fiery weapons; aided by rhythm guitarist Mike Dinkich, Duffy ignited the crowd with his solos – more passion than technicality, more balls than brains, just as The Cult has always been known and beloved for. Bassist Chris Wyse and drummer John Tempesta may have been less upfront than the rest of the band, but their proficiency at keeping the groove and beat ensured that the pulse of the band’s music was strong. Given that this has been the band’s steadiest lineup in several years, it’s no wonder the energy was on high and the band operating like a finely tuned machine. Not content to simply perform a string of well known hits, the band reminded the crowd that this was the Choice of Weapon tour, with “Honey from a Knife” following “Lil’ Devil” and matching all the rhythm and force of any of the hits, the chants of “We got the drugs” resonating with the crowd, the music their drug. Other songs like “The Wolf” with its classic and distinctive riff so recognizably The Cult and “Lucifer” with its hip-swiveling grit earning as raucous a response from the audience as “She Sells Sanctuary,” which strangely enough resulted in a dance/mosh pit of epic proportions.
With the encore consisting of “Love Removal Machine” and “Rise” (this night’s performance being only the second time the band unleashed the song on this tour), some would walk out expressing disappointment that “Sweet Soul Sister” was absent from the set list. Nonetheless, The Cult’s performance at the Fillmore is proof positive that the band, even after three decades, can deliver an incendiary helping of rock & roll grandeur and attract a diverse audience intent simply to enjoy music with equal parts grace and fury.
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photographs by SueLovely Photography