Cults almost run onstage, and grab their instruments, as if competing with time itself. Four screens alight in the background, leaving the band members in a wash of blue light, revealing only their silhouettes. Then as lead singer Madeline Follin starts singing, a blood red spot light lights up her face.
It’s a shame that the sound isn’t equivalent to this visual efflorescence; the vocal is simply too low and the drums and bass are too loud. Follin is drowning in pounding drums and thick bass notes – it feels like removing the driver from a Formula One car: the engine produces maximum power but it’s heading nowhere. And since Follin very much is the core of the band, then her presence is a necessity if the songs are to work. It’s obvious.
Fortunately the sound picks up during the concert and the performance of ‘I Can Hardly Make You Mine’ turns out being a greater pleasure live than on tape. The simple 4/4 beat generates dancing feet all over the floor, and especially a couple of guys in front of me seems to be more than satisfied, as they empty their beers in an ecstatic hands-over-head-dance.
Encouraged Follin says ”Now we’re gonna play a slow song”, but the slow verse is only a prelude for the majestic chorus of the retro-idyllic ‘You Know What I Mean’. Follin bursts into the chorus while moving like an exotic belly dancer. The visuals contribute to this ambience, casting a colourful veil over the entire stage. But the feeling of warmer climes doesn’t last long nor does the nostalgic vintage feel in the music. Tracks like ‘Keep Your Head Up’ are more of a rave-party experience than of an indie-pop concert, which the band however seems to enjoy, as opposed to myself standing in front of the stage. The intended fusion between musical cultures seems strange and misplaced. Cults has a sharp style, with charming references to the girl-group pop from the 1960’s, so why not just stick with that and forget about the rave?
After a short set of 40 minutes the band walks off stage without having played the hit that made a ton of critics excited: ‘Go Outside’. So it’s no surprise when they come back for the three encores. Even though ‘Go Outside’ catch the attention of everyone, it’s a punctured version of the happy sunshine-tune that fills the room. Follin looks as if she’s been singing that tune too many times and the former glow has faded from her face. The other half of the original duo, Brian Oblivion, is still in good spirits though, and he encourages the audience to dance and have a good time for the final track. Yet the general vibe throughout show is manifested by the silent Follin who, when the last note fades out, silently slides off the stage.