Live Review: The Cult, The Black Ryder @ The Tivoli, Brisbane 5 May 2010

By Denis Semchenko

[Photo by Charlyn Cameron]

The black is the new black and has always been. With The Tivoli already three-quarters-full with classic rock fans, the suitably monochrome-clad openers The Black Ryder roll out a tight neo-shoegaze opening set. Tonight being the Sydney-based band’s biggest support slot to date, principal leaders Miss Aimee Nash and Scott von Ryper (both former members of New York-through-Melbourne combo The Morning After Girls) command the show with their detached, deadpan presence.

Counting a blonde-bombshell keyboard/tambourine/guitar player among them, the three men and two ladies in black draw a positive reaction from the predominantly forty-plus gathering. Nash’s seductive, vamp-like vocals sit atop the monotone guitar-led rhythms, gnarly bass and sporadic slide riffs as the five-piece showcase tracks from last year’s Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride album. Keeping crowd banter down to a bare minimum, they bow out with The Velvet Underground-redolent two-chord lullaby and a thundering shoegaze/garage-rock drone.

Fifteen years after they last toured Australia, The Cult are still making us wait; getting increasingly impatient, sections of the crowd turn rowdy. No later than the headliners finally come on and the swirling strains of Nirvana hit the air, a brawl breaks out directly behind us, the security swiftly kicking out the drunken idiots rolling on the floor (say goodbye to your $115 and the opportunity to see one of the ’80s most distinctive rock bands, you drongos).

The troublemakers having been removed, we continue our journey back to 1985 as Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy and co go through their landmark Love album in its entirety. In full leather-and-shades Lizard King mode (think Jim Morrison circa 1970) tonight, Astbury’s powerful bellow has undiminished from his halcyon days while Duffy’s razor-sharp Gretsch still draws blood. The front rows going mental, riff-rocker Big Neon Glitter, the serpentine title track, Hollow Man and heavily-flanged Rain are all impeccably recited and go down a storm.

Recorded during the band’s transitional period when they were shedding their goth/post-punk origins and turning into lean rock monsters, the tracks sound remarkably fresh and appear to have passed the test of time with ease. Revolution is a commendable groover, the perennial She Sells Sanctuary sends the room apeshit and moody ballad Black Angel rounds off the show’s first half just as organically as it does the album.

Minutes later, Bradford, Yorkshire’s finest return for an encore brimming with their late ’80s, arena-slaying highlights. Emerging minus shades but in a bandanna, Astbury leads the old-school charge on Electric Ocean as the noise dies down, Duffy fiercely windmilling his Les Paul. The mullet-friendly section of the crowd rejoice at the chugging AC/DC takeoff Wildflower and LA rock foray Sun King (which culminates with Duffy’s searing wah-drenched solo). Berating young bands of today for “having no gravitas” in a typically preposterous fashion, Astbury yells “Bring it, motherfucker!” before the veteran axeman whips up the menacing intro of 2001’s comeback single Rise – essentially a classic Cult track with a “modern” drop-D riff thrown in.

From the band’s most recent album, 2007’s Born Into This, Dirty Little Rockstar retains the party-like-it’s-1989 mood, perfectly encapsulated by one of their best-known numbers – the Sonic Temple hit Fire Woman, greeted by deafening cheers. The loudest response, however is reserved for Electric’s evergreen pub anthem Love Removal Machine. With the crowd fiercely pogoing along, the song serves as a fitting, exultant finale to a thoroughly enjoyable, if not necessarily mind-blowing show. In short, the old dogs still know how to do it.