wed 21/02/2024

Death Cult, O2 Institute, Birmingham review - The Cult revisit their post-punk roots | reviews, news & interviews

Death Cult, O2 Institute, Birmingham review - The Cult revisit their post-punk roots

Death Cult, O2 Institute, Birmingham review - The Cult revisit their post-punk roots

A blistering return to the early Eighties by Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy

Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy

The Cult may have only really hit paydirt in the late Eighties when they started worshipping at the altar of the Rawk Gods of more than a decade before and welcomed Rick Rubin and Bob Rock to toughen up their sound on albums like Electric and Sonic Temple.

However, there are clearly many people who still look back wistfully on their post-punk years – to the Dreamtime album, to Death Cult and even further, to vocalist Ian Astbury’s first band, Southern Death Cult.

Sure, Astbury and Duffy still play “She Sells Sanctuary” and “Rain” in their live set, but they are mere morsels of a time long gone. Or are they?

Forty years on from when Ian Astbury used to wrap himself in Native American mythology and Billy Duffy’s Gretsch six-string rang out with icy shards rather than power chords, Death Cult (or Astbury, Duffy and a new rhythm section) have hit the road and booked themselves into more intimate venues than they’re played in years to shine a light on past glories. And it was truly glorious to be treated to a set that included the likes of “God’s Zoo”, “Butterflies” and “Christians” for the first time in decades.

Before the band even appeared, Birmingham’s Institute was saturated in thick dry ice but that didn’t stop one of the roadies from then stalking the stage with burning sage to bless the performance. When Death Cult did arrive though, it was like a gang of post-punk Dorian Grays had hit the stage. Ian Astbury was dressed in a long black coat with jet black shades and a man bun, giving the impression that the rock’n’roll lifestyle hasn’t done him the same damage as normal life had inflicted on the majority of the audience – a good many of whom had significantly more hair on their chins than their crowns. That said, it didn’t stop some serious action going on in the mosh pit from the first notes.

Once Death Cult had got themselves comfortable by rattling through “Ghost Dance” and a string of their more arcane tunes, Astbury invited original bass player, Jamie Stewart, on stage for rip-roaring takes on “Resurrection Joe” and “Horse Nation”. His appearance was brief though, even if the energy levels didn’t dip in the slightest for a subsequent run of “Go West”, “Dreamtime” and a life affirming “Spiritwalker”. These saw Astbury in fine voice, alternately picking up his tambourine and standing with arms outstretched like a shamanic preacher, while Duffy coaxed magic from this guitar and the rhythm section laid down a pounding groove which only ground to a halt after a foot stomping “Rain”.

That wasn’t the end of things though and, after a short breather, Death Cult were back with a final one-two punch of a couple of the best tunes from their arsenal. First off, there was the fire of Southern Death Cult’s “Moya”, which brimmed with a nuclear paranoia that is more than pertinent again. Then a final cavalry charge through “She Sells Sanctuary”, which almost took the roof off the building.

As the last notes faded away, Astbury raised his fist and called out one word – “Ceasefire”. So, he’s clearly reading the news. Let’s hope it starts influencing his songwriting again.

Astbury was in fine voice, alternately picking up his tambourine and standing with arms outstretched like a shamanic preacher

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters