Gig Review: The Cult

January 18 @ O2 Academy Leeds

The lights dim to a heavy harmonic drum beat and tribal singing grows louder as the projected backdrop is revealed: a gun-shot skull and crossbones.

The Cult's lead singer Ian Astbury graces the Leeds Academy stage and stands on the red, white and blue mat already pre-taped to the floor in front of his microphone.

He's sporting sunglasses, a leather jacket and gloves accessorised by a rather fetching array of what appear to be white animals' tails dangling from his belt loop.

The rest of the band follow, looking primed to play in front of a near-capacity crowd.

From the first song, Every Man and Woman is a Star, a mini moshpit is formed in the middle of the crowd.

Among audience favourites, like Rain and Sweet Soul Sister, was a brand new track, Saints are Down.

The crowd are very receptive to the first placid tune of the night, though the backdrop features quite violent scenes of the Chinese police and protesting Tibetan monks during the riots in Lhasa in 2008.

This is the main focus of the set and the horrific scenes did detract from the band and the music. Still, a very powerful moment.

Then Astbury addresses the audience again: 'We ain't no Rolling Stones, we are of the punk rock generation!'

As he removes the sunglasses they kick in with the sixth song, White, with a backdrop of snow-laden hillsides and trees complete with a soaring eagle. The crowd surfing resumes even though this track isn't that upbeat.

It continues through classics such as Spiritwalker, Wild Flower and She Sells Sanctuary.

The last song of the main set is Love Removal Machine – a huge crowd pleaser with a slightly more comedic backdrop featuring Star Wars storm troopers.

During the encore Astbury says The Cult hope to release a new album in June then remembers the band's West Yorkshire roots, dedicating Rise to Leeds United. 'I hope they kick the **** out of the Premiership! Dirty old Leeds!'

The Cult are back and are now deciding to break from the norm and do things a little differently – good for them.

Emma Bardill

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