THE CULT (Live at The City Hall, Newcastle, U.K., March 9, 2016)
Photo: Mick Burgess

As politicians seem to like saying with alarming regularity, difficult decisions need to be made. Indeed. With The Stranglers and The Alarm in support at the O2 Academy and The Cult playing at the City Hall tough decisions were certainly called for.

The clash of gigs didn’t seem to have to have an adverse impact on The Cult’s show with a healthy showing for the return of one of the UK’s finest Rock acts.

With their latest album Hidden City barely a month old The Cult took the bold step of opening the show with a new song, Dark Energy. With its scything riff and driving shuffle this was a natural set opener and as a taster for the new album, it left a delicious taste in the mouth before a couple of hits in Rain and Wild Flower returned the band to familiar territory.

As Pete Townsend once said, a great set list includes one third new songs for the label, one third hits for the casual fans and one third vintage cuts for the hard core fans and The Cult clearly took note as the tribal rhythms of Horse Nation galloped in from their very early days as the Death Cult. Hard core fans were suitably elated.

For a band with their roots laid down in the ’80s, The Cult have managed to avoid being trapped in those times. Their ability to adapt and reinvent themselves has kept them forward thinking and relevant. That transition can be traced from their Gothic roots of Spriritwalker to the Psychedelic wah wah soaked The Phoenix to the stripped down garage Rock of Lil’ Devil onto the chest thumping stadium Rock of Fire Woman. The Cult’s enduring appeal has in many ways been down to their ability to never repeat the same album twice. That guessing game has kept the fans on the hook waiting to see what the next instalment will bring.

With Hidden City, The Cult have delivered big time. Arguably their best album in 20 years, they have rarely sounded so confident and vibrant and that is quite something for a band who have been around the block a fair few times. Lead singer, Ian Astbury, the consummate frontman decked in shades, delivered a truly impassioned performance during Bird of Paradise while guitarist Billy Duffy showed his class during the Zeppelin-esq epic Deeply Ordered Chaos taking the less is more approach in direct contrast to the guitar frenzy of Hinterland pulling out a fine selection of guitar hero poses along the way. Damon Fox, on loan from Prog Rockers Big Elf, added an atmospheric dash of keyboards to provide an extra dimension to the classic Cult sound

Of course the hits came thick and fast as She Sells Sanctuary and Love Removal Machine had The Cult reaching top gear. For those at the City Hall who chose The Cult over The Stranglers, it was clear, the right decision had been made.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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