Managed to get out to see Cults this week. It was my first show at the Phoenix and, overall, I liked the venue. It had a bit of a weird vibe, like a converted high school gym. The faux neo-classical wall trappings (like “broken” columns) and high ceiling gave a pretty open space, along with decent sight lines. The floor seemed to have been stripped of any hardwood and was, instead, some covered concrete — which didn’t make standing all night ideal.
I was later than I initially planned, so missed the opener but I managed to catch the Spectrals. Not bad but I didn’t find them anything special and did appeared to be a strange opening for a buzz band. They seemed like middle-aged white dudes from the UK, though looking online that may not be exactly accurate. But I was standing in the back and the lead singer, Louis Oliver Jones, was wearing a dad ballcap with his big hair and their attire seemed more about comfort than any affected image.
Which was quite different from Cults, who really seemed more style than substance. I’ve quite enjoyed listening to their self-titled album, another great share from Mojgan. But watching them live shows just how much post-production is needed to create their distinctive, hollow sounding vocals — although the glockenspiel(!) sounded fine. Additionally, either touring has taken its toll on co-lead vocalist Madeline Follin or, more likely, she’s been assisted immensely through the same production magic. Brian Oblivion’s singing didn’t seem as affected live but I’ve always had a preference for female vocals.
It also felt like an incredibly short set. Mind you, Cults have a pretty limited catalogue, so this was not unexpected. They did play a cover, always aces in my books, Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows“. But that was mid-set and they didn’t even play the fake encore.
This actually earned some street cred with me, especially since they really made it clear that the “last song” was really to be the last song. And I’m such a cynic about the fake encore.
In the end, the show was just underwhelming. The opener (that I saw) didn’t really seem to compliment the headliner. The main attraction had only a marginal stage presence, which wasn’t enough to make up for the gap between their great debut disc and mediocre live sound.
Don’t get the wrong impression, I’m still a fan of Cults and I’m looking forward to a sophomore disc. But I’d have to recommend you enjoy their music at home or on your commute and save your concert event for someone a bit stronger.