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The Cult’s Astbury Plays With the Crowd in Phoenix

A decidedly upbeat Ian Astbury, frontman of the Cult, poked fun at pop culture as well as Phoenix’s Celebrity Theatre, the venue in which his band was performing, on Aug. 21. “The ‘Thunder From Down Under,’” Astbury said about the all-male revue that is slated to perform at the Celebrity later this year. “I’m very excited about that.”

Astbury was a tad sarcastic, as usual, during the 90-minute show that featured ‘Love’ in its entirety, as well as an encore of hits. He and his crack team — longtime guitarist Billy Duffy, drummer John Tempesta, guitarist Mike Dimkich and bassist Chris Wyse — antagonized the audience. The sold-out crowd was on its collective feet from the opening track, ‘Nirvana.’

“The party is better when you’re standing up or dancing,” said Astbury, who sang two songs, the aforementioned ‘Nirvana’ and ‘Big Neon Glitter,’ before addressing the audience. “I’m 47. There’s no excuse.”

He also ripped the audience during the encore for its lack of enthusiasm about The Cult’s song ‘Illuminated,’ from 2007′s ‘Born Into This.’ “Don’t get too excited,” he said, after announcing it was the next song. “Are you ready or are you just f—ing around?”

The Phoenix date was the second show on the ‘Love’ tour, which runs through Sept. 9. Astbury was modest about his band’s efforts. “We’ve never done this before,” Astbury said. “I hope you enjoy it.”

Late in the set, Astbury said he was surprised that the songs he and Duffy wrote when they were 23 were still relevant. Astbury still had his sociopolitical moments, though. He referenced the Taliban and thanked all his “brothers and sisters” for coming to the show. A champion of Native American causes, Astbury named several tribes before the poignant rendition of ‘Brother Wolf; Sister Moon.’

Mostly, the evening — which featured the second live performance of ‘Black Angel’ ever — was about fun. Astbury played tambourine against during ‘Rain,’ and tossed several of the instruments into the crowd. After ‘Rain,’ Duffy, who copped a Pete Townshend-like windmill stance several times throughout the show, posed with his fingers fashioned into a number one. ‘Hollow Man’ was rollicking, with a flurry of images on the video screen.

It was clear the audience, which seemed to be familiar with the ‘Love’ track listing, wanted to hear the hits. The noise level in the 2,000-seat theater in the round intensified, as it was clear the band was going to perform ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ next. Even Astbury could feel it. “This is a song that needs no introduction,” Astbury said.

For the encore, Astbury returned wearing a headband and an animal tail sticking out of his back pocket. He paid tribute to David Bowie with a few vocal riffs of ‘The Jean Genie’ during ‘Wildflower.’ Prior to ‘Firewoman,’ he backtracked about his comments regarding ‘She Sells Sanctuary.’ “This is your big rock moment,” he said facetiously. “Please come on. Engelbert Humperdinck is next week.”

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