The musty smell of long-loved leather, flowing tap beer and that vague "middle-aged ex-rocker" scent swirled through the crevices of a packed house last night at First Avenue. Suburban housewives found a babysitter for the night and sported ear-to-ear smiles with their date-night outfits. Memories of high school days gone by likely swelled with every fuzzy guitar riff as opening band Living Things cranked out a traditional but surprisingly solid hard rock set, whetting the palettes of this unusual and seemingly 30-and-up crowd. These are fans of the Cult. They once rocked it proper--some of them at the band's 1985 Love tour as their concert tees told--and they were sure going to do so again tonight as the tour of the same name came back around.
Accessible like Def Leppard but wielding a gothic edge like Morrissey or the Cure, the British band's major hits ("She Sells Sanctuary" and "Love Removal Machine") appear on Guitar Hero and undoubtedly drew in some fresh Gen Y fans--a few were speckled throughout the crowd this night and, like everyone else, grew weary as the time between bands stretched on. Finally, after what seemed like 10 years, the screen in front of the stage playing Beetlejuice lifted to reveal members of the Cult gravitating slowly to their instruments. The dance floor erupted with waving arms and flashes when lead singer Ian Astbury--who played frontman with original members of the Doors in The Doors Of The 21st Century---joined them to grasp the mic and a shiny, thick tambourine ("It was only $1.99," he said later, and threw it into the mass of black t-shirts that was the audience).
Starting out with a few mellower songs, it wasn't until "Rain" that the place really started to feel like an unstoppable monster of a rock show. Fans weren't allowed cameras of any kind (rumor has it the guitarist is a "bit of a primadonna"--unheard of!) so the main floor lit up with cell phones as, mid-set, Astbury led the band in a re-energized version of "She Sells Sanctuary":
Before making a few cheeky comments about new Viking Brett Farve, Astbury and Co. ended with their mid-'80s hit "Love Removal Machine," and most graciously didn't make fans wait for it via an encore. Overall, it was a special night of real live rock in Minneapolis that most in attendance won't soon forget, much like when they heard them the first time "way back when."