Concert review: The Cult electrifies the House of Blues

Ian Astbury was in fine form Friday night at the House of Blues.
Photo: Bill Hughes
Jason Harris

Four stars

The Cult September 6, House of Blues

After a summer of filled with forgettable—and sometimes emotionless—rock concerts, Las Vegas finally got the ass-kicking it needed Friday night, from British rockers The Cult. Celebrating the 26th anniversary (why not?) of Electric, the album that broke the band in the U.S. and moved its sound from post-punk to hard rock, the “Electric 13” tour finds The Cult playing two sets: the Rick Rubin-produced album in its entirety followed by a selection of hits and newer songs. Throw in the encore, and that’s a powerful hour-and-forty-five.

Electric live was every bit the war machine it should be. The band was tight, having obviously mastered the performance of the album. Billy Duffy’s guitar licks were macho, crisp and on point. But the clear MVP was lead singer Ian Astbury. The songs are so loud and aggressive that if the voice carrying them couldn’t measure up, it would have been a horrible nostalgia trip instead of a well-deserved victory lap. Instead, Astbury was dominant and confident, hitting everything in the sweet spot.

“Love Removal Machine,” “Peace Dog,” “Aphrodisiac Jacket,” in particular, were conquests. The band made a wise decision to leave out its underwhelming cover of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” which Astbury has explained ended up on the album because Rubin “had a gun on the table.” Replacing it with “Zap City” from Peace, a scrapped album recorded just before Electric (and eventually released in 2000), was a nice piece of continuity.

From the second set, “Sweet Soul Sister” rocked, and closer “She Sells Sanctuary” was a highlight of the entire concert year.

Electric, which was released in 1987, holds up remarkably well. The Cult proved that the band behind it does, too.

  • As the singer approaches 50, his vocals remain a high point, his mix of throaty growls and raspy screams sounding near-perfect.

  • He’s done acid in Las Vegas, which he calls “a bad life decision.”

  • "There’s no way we could cover everything we have. It would have to be a three-and-a-half-hour show."

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