Cults Give a Dreamy Performance at Musik & Frieden

Cults

NY band, Cults, played a show supporting their new album, Oblivion, that was as nostalgia-tinted, sweet, and dreamy as their signature sound, but also showcased a harder edge and greater depth not always present on their albums.

The small downstairs “Blaues Zimmer” at Musik & Frieden has slowly filled from the half-empty gathering it was when we arrived- a shame, considering the opening band, German newcomers Fye & Fennek were a very pleasant surprise, delivering catchy upbeat electronic surf tunes.

It is about 9 P.M. and while a crowd made up mostly of young couples swaying buzzes in the darkened room, the stage resonates with a distorted electronic sound as tiny projected lights fall down the screen like snowflakes.

My show companion and I quietly debate whether we think Madeline Follin’s voice, so angelic and melodic on the band’s records will live up to standard live.

My show companion and I quietly debate whether we think Madeline Follin’s voice, so angelic and melodic on the band’s records will live up to standard live.

After a few minutes of this droning buildup, Cults come out, accompanied by their three additional touring members. The picture of adjoined open-palmed hands from their most recent album, Offering, goes up on the screen and the band dives right into the album’s titular song, leaving no question as to what this tour is promoting. They sound energetic though slightly underwhelming. The mic perhaps isn’t loud enough because though Madeline’s voice is unfaltering, it’s hard to make it out over the distortion.

complete lack of interaction with the crowd from the band thus far, gives me a feeling of being slightly removed from the event

These mixed feelings continue for me into the second song, which I think I recognize from the first album, but can’t remember thinking was especially noteworthy. As a matter of fact, I cannot remember the name of it or make out the lyrics. This, combined with the still relatively dark stage lighting and complete lack of interaction with the crowd from the band thus far, gives me a feeling of being slightly removed from the event; questioning why I’m meant to care about what I’m watching.

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However, these feelings of dissatisfaction subside and change for the better (remaining that way for most of the show) with the third song in the set. The lights finally come up and turn shades of pink, Cults address the crowd, “Hello Berlin. This is a love song”, and go into the immensely satisfying “Always Forever” from their second album, Static. Brian Oblivion’s guitar sounds funkier live and the combination of candy-colored lighting and conoodling crowd give the whole thing quite a blissful atmosphere.

The band keeps the vibe lovely and amorous with skilful and sultrier live versions of their single “I Took Your Picture” and “With My Eyes Closed” from Offering; then “throws it back” in their own words with “Never Heal Myself” from their debut album.

This continues with “Talk In Circles” which I had previously found unremarkable, but now sounds truly impressive with skilful drumming I hadn’t noticed before.

They then announce the song “Right Words”, one of my personal favourites from the new selection, they play a great rendition of it with colorful visuals echoing the trippy official video; though there is nothing too special or notable about the live version except for the extended fuzzy fade-out.

They seem to be finding their stride and gaining confidence as they launch into “Good Religion”. The singing here is powerful and soaring, Madeline’s face often contorting emotively with eyes closed (no pun intended), as pink crosses blink on the screen, making use of the band’s dark humour infused with religious references. This continues with “Talk In Circles” which I had previously found unremarkable, but now sounds truly impressive with skilful drumming I hadn’t noticed before.

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As the band builds rapport with the crowd they give a shout-out to Can without whom they say, that last song wouldn’t have been possible. “Thanking Germany for the Kraut.”

Madeline’s voice sounded raspier, the crowd began actually dancing and television static glowed on the screen.

They then begin playing what they describe as “a Rock’n’Roll song”, it is ” I Can Hardly Make You Mine” from Static. In keeping with the band’s building momentum this song sounds somewhat “harder” and less sweet live. This also applied to another Static throwback, High Road, where the bass was really grooving, Madeline’s voice sounded raspier, the crowd began actually dancing and television static glowed on the screen.

Right at what I would call the peak of the performance, Madeline announced “We’re gonna play a slow jam now.” and dove right into “You Know What I Mean”. I heard somewhere that this is her favourite song (probably mine too) and it was quite a pleasure to see her sing it. Sounding like a sultry Supreme with more powerful instrumentation all around, this version the band played as their last song combined with the moody disco lights spinning, gave me shivers.

Were called back for an encore, and I’ll bet you can guess what they played.

They then left quite unceremoniously. Cue distortion and snowflakes again. Were called back for an encore, and I’ll bet you can guess what they played.

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Predictable? Maybe. But those first few notes of “Go Outside” resonating through the room were ecstatic.

Overall, though the performance started slowly and in a manner I’d call rather detached, I would argue that Cults are very much worth seeing live for their harder sound and cosy, nostalgic ambience reminiscent of a middle-school dance. And my earlier argument with my friend was definitely settled: the girl can sing.

 

Photo by Camille Haimet.

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