Better Than: Sweating buckets or inhaling copious amounts of secondhand smoke at previous Cults shows.
Being "Internet famous" can come as a mixed blessing, but Cults has now played three sold out Arizona shows thanks to hype from the blogosphere.
The band's career started when founders (and boyfriend/girlfriend) Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin posted a few songs online for friends to hear and ended up attracting national attention. Part of Cults' allure was its mystery--on the surface, the band plays sunny, upbeat indie with twinges of '60s pop, but there's something darker lurking under the air of sweetness and innocence.
I was first introduced to Cults when the band opened for The Morning Benders a couple years ago. I was smitten by what appeared to be the physical manifestation of what would happen if Nancy Sinatra met Charles Manson. Beyond the upbeat, glockenspiel-driven melodies lurks something a little more sinister. Just listen to "Abducted," it seems like an intense love song, but it's really about an unhealthy relationship.
After that show, I, like many others scoured the internet for any information I could possibly find about Cults. I listened to the three song demo quite a bit in the months leading up to the release of the band's debut full length album last year. I believe the album is what launched Cults into full fledged buzzband territory, because the band sold out its Club Congress show last summer and drew a huge crowd at FYF Fest in Los Angeles.
Both shows were fun, but pretty similar. I was a little disappointed that I drove down to Tucson to see Cults perform a relatively short 45 minute set, only to hear a very similar setlist at FYF. Regardless, they are a great live band that really exemplifies their charm in person, but it's done in a modest way, as if the band is still coming to terms with its large fanbase.
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Higher Power, Take Offense, Drain and Life's Question
Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 / 7:00pm @ Nile Theater - AZ 105 West Main St. Mesa AZ 85201105 West Main St., Mesa AZ 85201
Since last night was my fourth Cults show, I wasn't surprised to see another 45 minute set with the same core songs. Enough time had passed for me to get excited about seeing Cults again, and I'm glad I went, because it wasn't the same old shtick. For one, I could actually see the band instead of staring at the backs of heads while sweating it out on Club Congress' steps, that was a huge improvement.
The band's show has also improved quite a bit. That's not to say it wasn't enjoyable beforehand, both Follin and Oblivion are a delight to watch. Now there's a light show in the mix and the band has added a really great Leonard Cohen cover to its setlist. It was the best Cults show I've seen yet, and the fact that the audience has finally mustered up enough courage to sing along to songs like "Abducted" and "Go Outside" only helps things.
"We've always hated encores, we think they're pretentious," said Oblivion while introducing "Oh My God," the final song of the evening. After Cults left the stage, there was a lull of audience anticipation--perhaps he was joking and they'll come back for a few more songs--but like the other three shows, that wasn't the case.
Setlist: Abducted The Curse Never Heal Myself Most Wanted You Know What I Mean Bumper Never Saw the Point Rave On Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen cover) Walk at Night Go Outside Oh My God
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Cults at Rhythm Room. Personal Bias: In case you couldn't tell, I like these guys a lot. The Crowd: Young, hip, and fashionable. Overheard in the Crowd: "We went to a shop that sold guitars and guns. In America, that's very rock 'n roll." - Spectrals' singer. Random Notebook Dump: "Reverb" was written down quite a bit.
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