Show Review: The Cult at The Warfield Theater, 8/23/09

by Gordon Elgart on August 24, 2009

That tambourine at Ian's feet is mine now

That tambourine at Ian's feet is mine now

The Cult came to the Warfield on a Sunday night as part of their Love Tour, a show that has them playing through their classic first album on a nightly basis.  When bands play the full albums, fans get excited in advance, but having seen a number of these shows for myself, they’re usually boring affairs, as you already know what’s coming.  What’s the fun of track eight, “Revolution,” when you know that track nine, “She Sells Sanctuary,” comes next?  Well, I’ll tell you what kind of fun that is.

The opening band, Year Long Disaster, finished up at around 8:45, which is just about when I arrived at the Warfield.  I made my way down to the front to watch The Cult, and I began to wait.  And wait.  They were scheduled to start the set at 9:15, and the music started exactly at 10:00.  The crowd was restless, some of them were booing, others hooting and hollering.  One group unsuccessfully started a chant of “The Cult! The Cult!” before they quit after only a few moments.  I thought it might be pretty difficult for the band to get the crowd back when they did finally start.

Boy, was I wrong, sort of.  When “Nirvana” kicked in, the fine folks on the floor began dancing, jumping, singing, and it continued throughout the set.  Looking behind me, though, I saw the same thing Ian Astbury saw, and commented on from the stage.  Everybody looked asleep.  It was either the long wait for the band to start, the whole Sunday night of it all,  or perhaps just the age of the crowd.  We Cult fans are not young people for the most part, and we’ll keep our excitement in check until the hits start, thanks.

As for the band itself, we really only needed to focus on the two original members, Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy.  Ian Astbury’s voice has lost a notch or two of its power, but none of its range, so he sounded really good.  His look has gone from young rock God to elder Jim Morrison, and I don’t think it suits him well.  Billy Duffy, on the other hand, both looks and sounds incredible.  He’s definitely the star of the show.  His ringing riffs have lost none of their charm, and he can still rip out a solo.

Here’s my favorite part of the show, and an absolutely personal note.  Ian Astbury has a habit of playing the tambourine and then tossing it into the crowd.  I kept watching him toss it nowhere near me, until finally one went in my general direction, but not all that close to me.  But I’ve been to enough baseball games to know that I can wait for a ricochet.  And that tambourine was bobbled, popped back up into the air, and into my waiting hands!  A friend of a friend took it backstage to have it signed by Ian, and he signed it “To Gordan.”  My name is Gordon (“o” not “a”) but if you think you can tell the difference in a rock star autograph, you’d be wrong.

Meanwhile, back to the music.  When track five, “Rain,” finally arrived, the entire crowd finally came to life.  A minor pit started (seriously minor).  We even had a crowd surfer, just one.  All in all, the folks on the floor were having a fine time and getting really into it, but the energy never really permeated the entire theater with a couple of exceptions.  These were “She Sells Sanctuary,” “Fire Woman,” and the show closer “Love Removal Machine.”

And the show closer was the actual closer.  There was no encore.  That was a bit disappointing because the show was too short for my taste.  (“Wild Hearted Son” next time please.) And even though the crowd had low energy, I think it’s their fault.  They should have come down to the pit where it was sweaty and not at all dangerous.  If you can’t party with The Cult on a Sunday night, maybe it’s time to hang up your rock ‘n roll clothes.


I did not write down a setlist, but I am nearly 99.8% positive it was the same as the previous night’s LA show.  So this is the setlist for the LA show, and anyone who was there at the Warfield can correct me if I’m wrong.

    Love Album

Big Neon Glitter
Brother Wolf, Sister Moon
The Phoenix
Hollow Man
She Sells Sanctuary
Black Angel

    “Encore” Set

Electric Ocean
Fire Woman
Dirty Little Rockstar
Love Removal Machine

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

LedMan August 24, 2009 at 11:48 pm

I do think Cult fans like me, are getting older and just don’t have the energy we did when we were younger. I also think the front of the stage and many rows behind were packed tightly and there wasn’t much area to move around. I was just left of the mixing desk and it appeared that when someone would step foot across the yellow tape separating the center aisle from the left and right side, there would be a member of security there to remind them that you just crossed the line and I saw other minor incidents that security would make a big deal about and Ian even made several comments about security. These factors make it quite difficult to move around and have a good time. Personally I thought the set after “Love” had more energy and Ian, Billy, Chris, Mike and John also seemed more into it. I’ve been a Cult fan since 1985, seen them many times and since 2006 this band has stuck together and really rocked longer than any other Cult line-up. I thank Ian and Billy both for working out their artistic and personal differences and sticking together for these last 3 + years and providing fans some great Cult classics and more recent tunes. I’m not a huge fan of “Born Into This” however do admit that I prefer Illuminated and Dirty Little Rock Star live. I can’t wait for them to return to the Bay Area again. The set list above is correct


Caroline August 25, 2009 at 6:05 pm

That’s when it pays to be tall at a show, when instruments get bobbled through the crowd.


wrecks September 9, 2009 at 4:18 am

wow- you’re all on glue!.. i’ve seen every show since billy idol and the subject band in the 80’s and we had to leave after ‘phoenix’ because it was so bad. astbury was wasted and the sound mix was horrific. i’m not sure i can ever see them again. i brought my new wife because she loves sanctuary so much and we couldn’t even wait for that. so sad as the 07 show was so great.


JEFFREAK September 13, 2009 at 11:41 am

Saw them at the House of Blues in Boston last night. Hadn’t seen them since 1991 during the Sonic Temple tour. Ian was in great spirits … he talked to the crowd and belted out the tunes. Billy was on as usual. What an insane guitarist that man is. The rythem section kept it all real. Yeah, alot of old doodes and doodets there but it sure beat dealing with young idiots drunk wanting to fight people. The Cult is just that … a cult classic. I’d see them any day of the week again and again. Was great to know they were going to play an entire album and they did. They basically played the set list everyone has been writting about. Loved it.


Ro September 22, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Pues me hubiera encantado estar allí. Hubiera preferido que tocaran “Ceremony”; es que apenas tengo 34. ¿Dónde los veré en vivo? Ya se verá.


mm November 17, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Love was not their first album.


Gordon Elgart November 17, 2009 at 12:21 pm

That is technically true, but Love was their first album released here in the U.S., so throughout high school, I considered it their first album, and I’ve never gotten out of the habit.


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