Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Cult at the Gramercy Theatre

Ian Astbury
Vocalist/songwriter Ian Astbury formed Southern Death Cult in 1981, in Bradford, England. The name derived from the 14th century Native American religion, but it was also a commentary on the centralization of power in Southern England. The band was at the forefront of the emerging post-punk and gothic rock scene, but disbanded in 1983 after only 16 months. Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy formed Death Cult in 1983, shortened the name to the Cult in 1984, and in 1985 relocated to London, England. Bad habits and personality clashes caused the band to split and reunite several times; more than 25 musicians can say they were members of the Cult at some point. The current band is based in Los Angeles, California, and consists of Astbury, Duffy, new bassist Grant Fitzpatrick and drummer John Tempesta. The Cult's 10th studio album, Hidden City, was released on February 5, 2016.

At the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Astbury maintained his Jim Morrison-deep mystique, both hands clutching his microphone on the stationery stand, seemingly hiding behind it and his wrap-around sunglasses. Even the opening song, "Dark Energy," drove a Doors-ish "L.A. Woman" pulse and urgency. Astbury's absorbing vocals and Duffy's shimmering guitar leads gave imagination and depth to simple 4/4, three-chord song structures. Astbury said before starting "Hinterland" that the show was all about David Robert Jones (the late David Bowie), but the overall sound was pure, powerful, hard-edged rock and roll, anchored with dark vocals, The Edge-styled muscular guitar leads and head-bobbing AC/DC-styled riffs. Classic rock never felt better.

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