Reviewed by Kayvon Zahedi [Photos by Calvin Oberton] —
The Cult’s performance at the Danforth Music Hall on the night of Saturday, Dec 7, 2013 was one to be remembered for its ‘electrifying’ theme and content. The sold-out capacity crowd who filled the old Toronto dancehall theatre were in for quite a treat as many long-time Cult devotees and die-hard followers of the Cult were in the audience for this one-of performance which was to be part of one of the band’s final shows of their Electric 13 World Tour.
This tour was to be a celebration of their groundbreaking 1987 album ‘Electric’. The first half of the show was to be a performance of that breakthrough album in entire chronological order song by song followed by the second half being a performance of the band’s various singles throughout their lengthy career ranging from their latest studio album ‘Choice of Weapon’ to ‘Death Cult’ with an intermission in between the sets.
Following the popularity and success of their sold-out Love Live World Tour which saw the band perform their seminal 1985 album ‘Love’ in its entirety back in 2009 and 2010, Ian Astbury & Co. decided it was due time to reward their long-time fans with another treat and this was most definitely anything but that.
With the anticipation building to an all-time high and the concert’s start time going past the expected 9 pm marker, the audience was all the more anxious to see what they had been waiting so long for. And then finally, after a lengthy period of time dragged on, the lights came down and the band hit the stage with everyone in the crowd voicing their ultimate joy and relief. A backdrop screen highlighted for visuals was displayed on stage behind the band for every song that was to be performed during the course of the evening.
To cap things off, the band closed their ‘hits’ portion of the set with their top-selling classic track ‘She Sells Sanctuary‘
The first number of the evening ‘Wild Flower’ kicked things off to thus begin the ‘Electric’ half of the concert’s live set and jolted the crowd from their earlier sedative state. The Cult’s engaging frontman and boisterous lead singer Ian Astbury was in top form from the get-go along with his right-hand man, guitarist Billy Duffy, who co-founded the band with him in England thirty years prior back in 1983.
The two original members Astbury and Duffy were joined onstage alongside their now long-time current rhythm section which comprised of Chris Wyse on the bass guitar and John Tempesta on the drums, who equally held their own as well as complemented the live sound of the band. Along with long-time Cult band members Wyse and Tempesta, a returning musician was part of this lineup’s incarnation as well. This proved quite a treat and an added bonus for a lot of the band’s long-time devotee contingent, as James Stevenson made his return to the fold on the rhythm guitar. Stevenson was originally a hired hand for the Cult during their 1994 and 1995 world tour.
This current Electric 13 World Tour, consisting of over 60 dates, was now on its final leg but since the band had been going straight throughout the year since January, you could tell that the chemistry was firmly in place to show that the 5 man band unit was gelling extremely well together and those two factors coupled with each other made for an amazing live show onstage.
The only noticeable omission from the band’s chronological ‘Electric’ half of the show’s live set was their choosing to substitute their popular cover version of Canadian rock band Steppenwolf’s hit song ‘Born To Be Wild’ with ‘Zap City’ as its replacement. As most die-hard and long-time followers of the Cult are aware, the song ‘Zap City’ first appeared on the original recording sessions that took place in the summer of 1986 at the Manor Studio in Oxfordshire, England that were to be released on the album originally entitled ‘Peace’.
With the band ultimately feeling unsatisfied at the time with the sound of the completed ‘Peace’ recordings, they decided they wanted to change direction and find a new producer to make the album sound fresh and more with the times.
According to Ian Astbury, after hearing the Beastie Boy’s single ‘Cookie Puss’ being spun and played in a Toronto nightclub by local DJ Chris Sheppard around that time, the band subsequently sought out the Beasties’ Def Jam label record producer Rick Rubin in New York City and thus chose him to update the sound of their new recordings of ‘Peace’ which eventually became known as ‘Electric’.
Interestingly enough, four of the tracks that originally appeared on the ‘Peace’ recordings (or the ‘Manor Sessions’ as they came to be known as), ‘Zap City’ being one of them, wound up being released as B-sides to the singles issued from the ‘Electric’ album a year later in 1987. All twelve of the ‘Peace’ tracks from the ‘Manor Sessions’ were primarily scrapped but were only recently all officially made available and released by the band this year as part of the now-entitled ‘Electric Peace’ album.
This brand new 2013 album is available as part of the merchandise sold on the current Electric 13 World Tour and makes a very worthy addition to any die-hard Cult devotee’s music collection. After having finished off their ‘Electric’ half of the show, the band took a 20 minute break.
During this 20-minute intermission between sets, a short film entitled ‘Elemental Light’ directed by acclaimed artist and filmmaker Kostas Seremetis was screened to the concert audience.
After the ‘Elemental Light’ short screening had run its course and the intermission had ended, the band returned to the stage with a rousing rendition of their 1985 popular smash hit single ‘Rain’ from the ‘Love’ album.
To cap things off, the band closed their ‘hits’ portion of the set with their top-selling classic track ‘She Sells Sanctuary’, the other big single from their ‘Love’ album, to round things off. This made the capacity crowd packed into the theatre all the more content as they were clapping their hands and dancing on their feet nonstop right through until the final notes were played.
Before the band left the stage, their outspoken frontman Ian Astbury gave a big heartfelt thanks to the Toronto audience for their unwavering support through the years and kept the crowd anxiously eager for an encore to follow.
The fans in the audience cried out for more by stomping, clapping, shouting, and cheering to coax the band back onstage for a few more electrifying numbers to put a gratifying footnote on a very enjoyable evening.
They couldn’t have been more pleased with the return to the stage of Astbury, Duffy, and the rest of the boys to play a two-song encore to serve as a grand finale and conclude the amazing experience that was had by all in the sold-out audience that evening.
The first song the band performed for their encore, ‘Spiritwalker’, was appropriately enough the first ever single from their 1984 debut album ‘Dreamtime’ and a live staple from their early Death Cult days some thirty years ago. This was followed by their final song of the evening ‘Sun King’, the lead-off track and single from their chart-topping 1989 album ‘Sonic Temple’ to finish things off. On both songs during the encore, lead guitarist Billy Duffy was able to show off his impressive flair and outstanding skills showcased respectively playing a newly-issued Gibson custom ‘Flame Top’ guitar and his signature model Gretsch White Falcon guitar.
The flanged sonic effects and sustained feedback created by Duffy’s energising riffs pulsating through his Marshall amplifier cabinets wove the framework for Astbury’s commanding yet soulful vocals to power the songs throughout the encore. And to finish things off, charismatic frontman and lead singer Ian Astbury once again took the opportunity to thank the sold-out Toronto audience and introduced his other four bandmates to them.
He encouraged the concert goers that evening by inviting to come out to see the band at their upcoming show to follow nearby in Mississauga on Tuesday, December 10. In fact, throughout the course of the show that night, the former Hamilton, Ontario resident Astbury professed his admiration and love for Toronto’s controversial outspoken mayor Rob Ford in addition to giving his favourable praise for local Toronto disc jockey Chris Sheppard among his respectful kudos for the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club and all things Canadian.
It is still refreshing and remarkable to see the band’s appreciation for the city of Toronto and their Canadian fanbase is still clearly evident after all the years they’ve spent touring here. Overall, most if not all the folks who attended the concert that evening came away very happy and impressed by the content of the Cult’s performance. And I can count myself as one of those truly lucky enough to have been a part of it.