If Ian Astbury was just a little annoyed that this tour was taking in theatres rather than arenas he didn’t let on.
And if the charismatic Cult leader was a tad bemused by derogatory comments attributed to the frontman of advertised support Killing Joke – Jaz Coleman and co. were subsequently kicked off this bill – then there was little evidence of any lingering bad blood.
In fact – after asking the audience who was in town to see Killing Joke – Astbury made a point of explaining he had spoken to his crestfallen counterpart to seek clarification. “We love Killing Joke,” he said, without a hint of irony. “Jaz said he never wrote any of that stuff (slagging off The Cult and The Mission). He told me he was on holiday.”
Whether or not Coleman and co. would have enhanced the evening’s entertainment is anyone’s guess. But in the absence of their 80s buddies, The Cult and The Mission came together to prove there’s still a place for dark and brooding gothic rock.
Initially, however, Wayne Hussey appeared indifferent to the whole shindig, failing to induce any kind of reaction from a subdued crowd unimpressed by laborious live versions of songs that deserved so much better. Peppering those tunes with mindless mid-song banter didn’t change the perception that The Mission’s frontman was here to enrage rather than engage: good old fashioned entertainment was at a premium.
Yet this was the archetypal show of two halves. With the clock ticking The Mission finally found their missing gear, stepping up the pace, performing with passion and just about turning things around.
When Wasteland and Deliverence were pumped through the PA it was finally the cue for fist-pumping adulation. Maybe Hussey misjudged the mood early doors but come the final curtain it was Mission accomplished. And The Cult picked up the baton with a belligerent brilliance.
New album Choice Of Weapon has breathed new life into a set that had been lurching towards lazy predictability. If 2007’s Born Into This proved there was life in the old dog yet so many of that album’s better songs proved a poor fit for the ultimate Cult show. The Wolf, by comparison, belongs right at the heart of this band’s bombastic live delivery.
Alongside Honey From A Knife and Lucifer, The Wolf has energised Astbury and his ‘too cool for school’ sidekick Billy Duffy. This time last year the moody Mancunian was Married To Rock (co-starring in a reality TV show scripted to accentuate his grumpier side) but it appears he’s now back in the arms of his beloved guitar. It’s a true marriage made in heaven and many of last night’s soaring solos and crunching riffs belonged in another universe.
As a duo Astbury and Duffy have always oozed raw and unadulterated rock n roll: on the one hand there’s the silky smooth singer with the movie star looks and on the other the working class hero with an ever-soaring ego. Few guitarists enjoy a permanent spotlight from start to finish without uttering a word or cracking a smile but Duffy isn’t most guitarists. His music does the talking and last night it screamed talent with every note.
Where The Mission started slowly, The Cult stormed out of the blocks with a blistering rendition of Lil’ Devil. Maintaining the momentum with breakneck speed the classics came and went in a rhythmic blur – Fire Woman and She Sells Sanctuary sounding as fresh and feisty as ever.
Astbury – wearing what looked like the remains of the aforementioned Wolf around his neck – delivered the perfect lesson in rockstardom. Duffy did his bit and the crowd went home happy. By now nobody could care less about Killing Joke.