For many local fans, the enduring concert memory of goth-metal rock band the Cult is of the already-declining group being thoroughly upstaged at the Forum in 1995 by Lenny Kravitz and his band, an event followed by the Cult’s breakup a few months later. But an unexpected reunion in the late ’90s, culminating in a triumphant two-week, sold-out run at the West Hollywood House of Blues, signaled the desire of singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy to recapture the band’s lost glory days. They haven’t quite come back that far, but the Cult, mach II, is a worthy beneficiary of the band’s hard-earned legacy.
At the nearly full Universal Amphitheatre Friday, near the end of a three-month U.S. tour to reintroduce the band and its extensive catalog of radio hits, the Cult played a short powerful show that reinforced the notion that the world has far too few real rock stars anymore.
Singer Ian Astbury, sporting a furry winter cap, was master of his stage, and he captivated the howling room with an eerie presence and the sheer strength of his personality.
“Movie people need to get out of the way in this town,” he said. “Pretend people pretending to tell pretend stories. This is real people telling real stories,” Astbury declared, motioning toward his bandmates, to rabid response.
Astbury’s voice, often the band’s concert weakness, was iffy in some places and songs like “Sweet Soul Sister,” one of the band’s best, suffered due to his tendency to chop his notes rather than hold them.
Duffy impressed with a series of dead-on solos and sounded as good as he ever has. New songs such as the anthem “Take the Power” and the self-loathing “Breathe” — from “Beyond Good and Evil” (Atlantic), the Cult’s first new album in seven years — were especially reliant on Duffy’s impressive, highly distorted six-string skills.
The crowd gave the adequate new material a fair shake, but it was the older tracks that brought the noise, highlighted by a late-set run of “Fire Woman,” “Sweet Soul Sister,” “Wildflower” and “Sanctuary.” The 80-minute show concluded with a strong take on “Love Removal Machine.” Tour wraps tonight at Warfield in San Francisco.