Gig review: The Cult, Barrowland, Glasgow

THE CULT were responsible for this writer's first ever wide-eyed Barrowland experience over thirty years ago. Back then, the band were gothic hippy contenders on the rise. Frontman Ian Astbury was a child of Jim Morrison with a weird charisma, distinctive foghorn voice, trusty tambourine and a fixation with tribal cultures.

The Cult  sound leaner than they have for years on their album Hidden City. Picture: Getty Images
The Cult sound leaner than they have for years on their album Hidden City. Picture: Getty Images

The Cult | Rating: **** | Barrowland, Glasgow

Thirty years on, not that much has changed, although decades of dwelling at the heart of the Californian rock’n’roll fraternity has resulted in a degree of middle-aged spread.

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However, the band are sounding leaner than they have in years on their latest album Hidden City, ably illustrated by the economic fuzzed-up boogie of opening number Dark Energy.

They are justifiably proud of new additions such as Hinterland, with its ominous springing bassline, over which guitarist Billy Duffy riffs with distorted abandon, but this show would not have been half as celebratory without a generous trawl through the group’s back pages. “Here comes the rain,” sang Astbury in his trademark strangulated style as the stage was showered with appreciative alcoholic offerings.

Mindful of the health and safety of this troupe of old age punks, Astbury mopped the floor mid-performance.

In return, the band drenched the audience in classic rock references, including the turbo-charged Zep metal of Gone and Ray Manzarek-style organ break of Sweet Soul Sister.

The Cult have often been on intimate terms with the most ridiculous hoary rock cliché but now the likes of Love Removal Machine and Lil’ Devil - a prototype for Primal Scream’s similiarly neanderthal Rocks, which Astbury later parodied – just sound like ridiculously good fun.

Whereas in the past, Astbury could easily be accused of taking himself too seriously, he was in impish form on his (sort of) home ground, shamelessly exploiting his Glasgow family connections with accurate accent and patter, tributes to this glorious venue, memories of teenage gig-going at the Glasgow Apollo and a brief rendition of Scottish lullaby Ally Bally Bee.

As for delivering musically, the band threw everything they had at the Stooges-influenced Phoenix, with lashings of incendiary wah-wah riffola, freak-out organ and a brief bassy breakdown, and stepped even further back into their catalogue with the urgent Horse Nation and stomping Spiritwalker. “We have to be in our coffins at midnight,” warned Astbury, before unleashing She Sells Sanctuary, their goth rock anthem to rule them
all, and still their best-loved riff.