Absent friends fail to spoil party

LEThe Cult:  Billy Duffy, Chris Wyse, Ian Astbury, John Tempesta
LEThe Cult: Billy Duffy, Chris Wyse, Ian Astbury, John Tempesta

Live review: The Cult at the O2 Academy, Newcastle

TWO out of three ain’t bad, according to king-sized rock veteran Meat Loaf, and so it proved for the Cult and the Mission.

Originally due to take place at the nearby Metro Radio Arena and to feature an additional support slot from Killing Joke, this show had to be doubly downsized.

Early ticket sales failed to justify booking the 11,000-capacity arena, prompting a switch to the 2,000-capacity academy, and, to add insult to injury, Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman decided to pull out of the tour, allegedly directing some abuse at the headliners for good measure and generating umpteen times more publicity for his band than a bottom-of-the-bill support slot would ever have managed.

The Cult remained unperturbed by what Coleman referred to as the right ding-dong he had caused, with singer Ian Astbury expressing scepticism about the veracity of the remarks attributed to the Killing Joke vocalist and declaring his undimmed affection for his band.

Astbury did seem intent on creating a ding-dong of his own, however, berating the crowd for being “soft” and not keeping the concert hall’s three bars busy enough for his liking, as well as urging them to throw bottles at him – an invitation which went unheeded.

The odd such moment of surliness aside, Astbury was on good form throughout, and the 50-year-old’s voice, for the first few songs of his band’s 80-minute show, at least, was as good as it’s ever been live.

Kicking off with Lil’ Devil, followed by Rain, and closing with their best-known song, She Sells Sanctuary, with an encore of Love Removal Machine, their 16-song set included just about everything a fan could wish for and also gave a generous showing to their new album, Choice of Weapon.

No fewer than five songs from the new CD made an appearance, six if you count Embers, an older track featured on the deluxe edition’s bonus disc, the pick of the bunch being Love > Death.

The last couple of songs of the evening even induced Astbury to lighten up and let his hair down, both literally and figuratively, by which time, few of those present could have cared less about absent friends such as Coleman and any hoo-ha over support slots.