Concert Reviews

Live Review: Cults at Chicago’s Metro (11/23)

on November 24, 2013, 10:45pm

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Cults are currently trying to solve a problem to which few bands before them can claim precedent. The Madelline Follin- and Brian Oblivion-fronted pop outfit earned their Bandcamp-era royalty cards with their debut LP, but Cults and its supporting tour were hardly convincing evidence that this project would be sustainable in the long term: They’ve never employed a particularly radical sound, or particularly complex songwriting, or even particularly adept performers. Follin’s voice is good, not stunning; the band’s arrangements and production infect, but don’t challenge. The most simplified argument you could make for this band was that if you’re a frustrated millennial incessantly consumed in millennial things, Cults was likely to be very, very relatable to you.

Does therein lay the solution to following-up a huge, but threateningly one-off success of an album? They’re hoping so, if their sophomore album, Static, and its supporting shows are any indication. Musically, Cults continue to do their absolute best with what they’ve got. But more crucially, they’re taking aggressive additional strides, too. Everything now – the music, the performances, the interviews, the .gif art – is in service of a new, hopefully relatable concept: that “static” is, according to Oblivion, a feeling “that life is waiting for you, and yet it’s not happening.” It’s a motif they’re trying to hammer into their audience’s memories, especially with their new live show, which now features a beefed-up sound and no less than eight flat-screen TVs, and which made a well-received stop at the Metro on Saturday.

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Cults performed a set roughly equal on songs from Cults and Static, finishing their encore with their two most proven cuts from the debut: “Go Outside” and “Oh My God”. Behind them, an elaborate and chromatic visual display synchronized the background lighting with patterns on the TVs, which cycled between blue static, grey static, and any number of entrancing, kaleidoscopic shapes. It fed their energy, too. Compared to the other two times I’d seen them play, both on their Cults tour, they were in a new top form, and doubtlessly more confident – Follin’s voice, especially, breached “wail” territory for the first time I’d heard on duet “Bumper”. A clean sound ensured there were no road bumps to distract, and it was a big enough stop for them (“one of the best venues in the country,” said Oblivion) to even throw in a cover song (“something we never do”) that was meant for Cults: The Motels’ “Total Control”.

The buzz surrounding Cults may have died down, but the static has only just begun.

Setlist:
High Road
Abducted
Never Heal Myself
Always Forever
Never Saw the Point
Were Before
So Far
Bumper
I Can Hardly Make You Mine
Total Control (The Motels cover)
Rave On
Encore:
Keep Your Head Up
Go Outside
Oh My God

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