@ Wolverhampton Civic Hall, January 26 2011

Perhaps the band above all from the 1980s who should have gone global, but never quite made it, The Cult returned to the gigging scene 18 months ago after a long break to huge acclaim.

Sold out shows throughout Britain were a testimony to the affection in which they were held and singer Ian Astbury delivered memorable performances night after night. Such a shame then that Wolverhampton’s cavernous Civic Hall was only two-thirds full for one of the great rock bands of recent history.

The lack of numbers may have affected Astbury, who started the evening with a turgid version of one The Cult’s favourites, namely the anthemic Rain. At the end of Horse Nation Astbury, as he is wont to do, complained of the lack of atmosphere, before walking off stage for 10 minutes. Whatever he did in that break seemingly worked as his returned was greeted with rapturous applause and The Cult started to crank themselves into gear.

Moya started to get the mosh pit moving and by the time Astbury, Bill Duffy and Co turned up the volume for a thumping rendition of Dreamtime the house was beginning to enjoy itself. Yorkshireman Astbury, now talking with a pronounced American accent courtesy of his many years spent Stateside, spoke of his love for the Black Country, birthplace of his favourite band Led Zeppelin.

That certainly worked as Wolverhampton roared its approval. The second half of the show was light years better than the opening with She Sells Sanctuary and Love Removal Machine both receiving the proper treatment.

After …Sanctuary Astbury announced it was the best song he ever wrote, but many rock fans would regard it as the best song ever written, full stop, with its thumping percussion and wailing lyrics of love unrequited. It remains pure rock perfection. The show finished with The Doors’ Break on Through (to the other side) which was a shame as Wolverhampton came to see The Cult perform, not their desert island disc preferences.

Altogether it was a game of two halves. The first was tepid, the second tremendous. A bit like the band really because when they were good, The Cult were exceptionally good. Perhaps even the best.

Niall Hickman