Fast forward more than two decades later and, after several break ups, lineup changes, feuds, battles and record label switches, The Cult is still able to tour and attract respectable-sized crowds. The crowd that crammed itself into a packed Jannus Live in Downtown St. Petersburg on Monday didn't mind the brisk weather or the fact that it was a weeknight. The turnout was more that ample for a band that hasn't had any significant success for the better part of the last two decades. It showed that the audience that embraced the band after its hard rock transformation is a loyal one. And for that, The Cult have to be very grateful.
Now if only they could have rewarded the loyal throng with a lasting impression...
[image-1]I will honestly say I'm probably in the minority here, but I found Monday night's performance lackluster and unimpressive. Sure, the band sounded really, really good. Their figurehead and anchor, guitarist Billy Duffy, was particularly stunning. His ax work has long been the unheralded device that has propelled the band to the heights it's reached. Duffy is a versatile player who can switch from subtle to grandiose playing on a dime. Lead singer Ian Astbury was once a charismatic and intriguing front man. While his vocals still ring with the same clarity and range as they did at the band's peak, he's since reduced his onstage persona to a faceless, motionless, stagnant bar-band singer. Behind the ever-present shades he wore on Monday night, his full beard and long wavy hair, it was hard to recognize Astbury. If not for that distinctive voice that fueled early favorites like "Spiritwalker" and "Rain", it would have been easy to not recognize the once visually stunning singer. His bohemian gypsy garb was ditched in favor of a ski jacket and blue jeans.
After an unimpressive, somewhat drab set by Australian opening act Black Rider, The Cult took their sweet time to come onstage to begin playing -- almost an hour elapsed between acts. After finally taking the stage, the band then delivered a paltry 75-minute set. Astbury's between-song banter was dull and unimaginative; cliches abounded but were nowhere near as repugnant as his history lesson he gave, graciously enlightening us that "rock 'n' roll started as African-American folk music. ..." Gee, thanks, Ian.
Speaking as someone who gladly and willingly followed this band through many different style changes and name changes and has seen them several times in concert throughout their long career, I can honestly say that this was not a true representation of what this band is truly capable of. Monday night's show seemed forced and labored. This isn't The Cult that was once able to set a stage ablaze and overpower their audience. While feuds and bickering apparently still seem to be a part of the band's status quo (according to the press), now might be the right time to pull the plug on The Cult once and for all.
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