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The Cult /The Mission, Hammersmith Apollo | reviews, news & interviews

The Cult /The Mission, Hammersmith Apollo

The Cult /The Mission, Hammersmith Apollo

No show from Killing Joke, but Ian Astbury anoints himself the comeback king

The Cult: For ravers, rockers, sinners, lovers and middle-aged men

In the summer of ’86, The Cult’s Ian Astbury invited The Mission on tour with them. Mission main man, Wayne Hussey, had recently fled the role of guitarist in The Sisters of Mercy to lead his own band. Goth fans had high hopes for them. Some thought they would eventually become bigger than the Cult. Over the next few years, though, both career paths defied expectations.

The Cult became a stadium-metal act, and The Mission gradually drifted into making good albums that few listened to. But the Cult’s success was not to last. A row in 1995 saw them go their separate ways. Doldrums and solo projects ensued including Astbury satisfying his Jim Morrison fantasy fronting a reformed The Doors. With that out of his system, he rang guitarist Billy Duffy and they made up. Soon, the pair were writing Choice of Weapon, hoping that it might really open a new chapter. And what better way to show a rebirth than to team up again with Hussey and his gang? Plans for the tour, however, got off to a bad start with third act, Killing Joke, going AWOL before it even got going. Maybe, though, three Eighties acts together would have just reeked of nostalgia.

There was one big problem. The sound system also sounded like it was from 1987

There was no doubt that last night The Mission were playing to the faithful. During “Beyond the Pale” and “Hands Across the Ocean” the sticky room filled up with eyeliner, crimped hair, and high-heeled boots. And that was just the men. If it hadn’t been for iPhones and the average age we could have been standing in the Marquee 25 years ago. Hussey certainly still had his voice, and the original band members their chops. There was one big problem: the sound system also sounded like it was from 1987.

For just over an hour, The Mission performed a succession of favourites like they were in a cave. Occasionally the echo would subside but it might also have helped to try varying the arrangements a bit too. The main problem seemed to be the volume of the bass. When Hussey came back for the final encore to a keyboard backing track suddenly everything sounded great. “Tower of Strength” was a barnstormer, and by the time the band joined him, their front man had already started crowd-diving. As the song closed, bassist Craig Adams was throwing shapes on a stack of speakers.

There was a break for about 45 minutes. By the time The Cult took to the stage things were looking significantly less Goth in the stalls. The rock crowd had arrived, and from Billy Duffy’s (pictured above right) opening riff on “Lil Devil” it was immediately obvious that the band meant business. The sound was nothing short of immense. Ian Astbury’s ego, on the other hand, seemed the opposite. In pony tail, shades and a leather jacket, he might have looked like a parody, but with his cod-American accent he proved a most amusing and charming host: “We are comeback kings”, “You know you’re in London when people can afford to throw beer" and, my favourite, “fuck Sunday, we’re all pagans here”.

He also though proved a better showman than singer. With all that swaggering his breathing suffered, and the phrasing often came in stabs. The less he moved around, the closer to the original rhythms he stayed. Astbury’s technical limitations were certainly compensated for by Billy Duffy, looking quite the part in his Randy Rhodes waistcoat. When I last heard him in the early Nineties he was good but nothing like this good. Last night he took each solo from the record and gave it a little more gut.

I was expecting the setlist to show a straight progression from indie to psychedelic to metal, but it wasn't so obvious. There were several off Love but no “Love” itself. Of those “Rain” and “Phoenix” were particularly rapturously received. The obligatory handful from the new album they matched the older material surprisingly well. Sonic Temple deserved a few more and surely numbers like “Horse Nation” and “Rise” were there more to satisfy the band than the crowd. You couldn’t fault the home-straight of “Wild Flower”, “She Sells Sanctuary” and “Love Removal Machine”. Before the latter, Astbury told the 5,000 in front of him to loosen up, and they duly obliged. “We’re back, we’re officially back,” he declared at the very end. He just may be right.

Watch The Cult's video for 'Honey from a Knife'


Comments

Great story. Two things, though - (1) After Astbury and Duffy "made up" they wrote and recorded another album before this one, entitled "Born To This" (worth checking out, by the way). (2) Learn to spell "Randy Rhoads" or I'll send Ozzy to bite your head off. We have Google now so there's no excuse. Rock on.

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