Although perhaps their best days are long behind them, The Cult were a powerful live act in the 1980s. I’ve seen them play several times, in both London and New York going back to 1983 and those shows were among the more memorable gigs I’ve ever attended.
Especially early on, the Cult’s rabid fan-base was so incredibly devoted that they’d follow the group around like crusty punk Deadheads, night after night. Back packs and sleeping rolls were in (annoying) abundance at every show. The band could really capture the imagination of their followers who seemed like they were having a pagan religious experience watching them. Their shows had a truly Dionysian drama to them that no other group I can think of achieved so totally and completely other than maybe Killing Joke. (It’s no wonder that the surviving Doors wanted Ian Astbury to be their front man, he was the obvious choice!)
I found their concerts mesmerizing and unlike anything I had ever seen before. Or smelled. The Cult’s fans were among the first “New Age Travelers” and a few hundred of them in one room was not something you’d care to get a whiff of, as anyone who saw them back then can attest to. “BO” was an unavoidable element of a Cult gig in the early 80s. Probably 90% of the audience (including me) lived in squats. It was that kind of scene.
I saw them at the Camden Palace in London sometime soon after this Lyceum show was shot, but the shamanic intensity and the tribal vibe I experienced when I saw them are evident here, too in spades. They weren’t even beginning to peak at this point.