The Cult and Against Me! Marquee Theatre Friday, June 22
Last night's lineup was strange, to say the least.
Noise rockers The Icarus Line drew comparisons to Iggy Pop while Against Me! played its first Phoenix show after singer and guitarist Tom Gabel announced the decision to start living her life as a woman, going by the name Laura Jane Grace. Headliners The Cult toured in support of Choice of Weapon, which fit right in with the band's illustrious catalog.
Triumph was in the air as Florida punk rockers, Against Me! took the stage to the Rocky theme song and tore right into two new songs dealing with Laura's transgender identity- "True Trans Soul Rebel" and "Transgender Dysphoria Blues." Both songs sounded like an extension of the White Crosses material, and will probably become anthemic singalongs once fans learn the lyrics.
Last night wasn't all that different from previous Against Me! shows. Sure, Laura had longer hair and was wearing a flowing black shirt and some make up, but her voice hasn't changed. Against Me! shows have always been an energetic good time, but Laura has never looked so happy to be on stage. She got sassy during "Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists" and "The Ocean," shedding the guitar and give giving her plenty of room to grab the microphone with both hands and maintain a charismatic stage presence.
The audience unleashed some teen angst by starting a circle pit during "I Was A Teenage Anarchist," which is "a song about the pasts I've lived," according to Laura. The raucous energy continued through "White Crosses."
A few fans cheered when they recognized the opening riff of "The Ocean," and the rest showed their full support by loudly cheering along to the "If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman, my mother once told me she would have named me Laura" line, showing that Against Me! fans are very supportive of her decision.
The band's set ended on a high note with "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong" and the electric version of "Sink, Florida, Sink", which prompted fans to crowd surf and sing along.
The setlist may have been a little scant when it came to material from As the Eternal Cowboy and Reinventing Axl Rose, but there's no denying that Against Me! is still a fun band to see live, especially now that fans have shown such overwhelming support of Laura Jane Grace's a momentous, life-changing decision.
Fans of The Cult outnumbered Against Me!'s crowd, which isn't all together surprising. The Cult fans are quite the fun bunch when it comes to people watching: some girls dressed like strippers, others looked like bikers, and there were plenty of guys wearing Cult shirts, but none of them seemed to care. (I'd bet today some girls are regretting their decision to wear high heels.)
I've got to hand it to The Cult for packing Marquee Theatre last night. I'm not sure if it was sold out, but it was definitely close, making the venue feel like a very crowded sauna that served beer.
I think fans were into it, though for the most part, they just kind of stood around and bobbed their heads, showing the most enthusiasm for the first 15 or so seconds of songs from Love or Electric by wooing and throwing arms in the air.
The band played a few new songs, making "Honey From a Knife" and "The Wolf" stand outs from the set. While introducing "Lucifer," frontman Ian Astbury said, "We have a new album out, steal it, buy it, screw it." The Cult balanced new material with plenty of tracks from Love, closing out their primary set with a mumbly version of "She Sells Sanctuary." The group played a three song encore including "Love Removal Machine," which had the most enthusiastic reaction of the evening. Yes, believe it or not, the audience enjoyed it more than "She Sells Sanctuary."
At the end of The Cult's set, Astbury introduced the band members and started clapping and singing "ole, ole, ole," which was a strange ending indeed, but altogether not surprising. Last night was all about the strange -- and the great.
The Cult Setlist: Lil Devil Honey From a Knife Rain Lucifer Nirvana Embers Fire Woman The Wolf Rise Phoenix For the Animals Wild Flower She Sells Sanctuary
Encore (Incomplete): Love Removal Machine
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Against Me! Setlist True Trans Soul Rebel Transgender Dysphoria Blues Don't Lose Touch Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists I Was a Teenage Anarchist White Crosses Dead Friends Black Me Out Thrash Unreal Pretty Girls (The Mover) The Ocean Pints of Guinness Make You Strong Sink, Florida, Sink
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: The Cult and Against Me! at Marquee Theatre. Personal Bias: I really like Against Me!. The Crowd: On the older side, but...at least nobody pooped on the floor. Overheard in the Crowd: About The Cult- "They kind of remind me of Van Halen, where it's just sad." During The Cult's encore break, "We gotta have beer!"