Last night was a bit of a novelty for me, my friend Dave asked me a while back if I fancied going to see Cage The Elephant, I had no idea at all who they were* and had never heard a note of theirs but a gig’s a gig and so I jumped at the chance. As the days rolled around it got to Monday before the gig and I realized I was still in that state of ignorance and so I downloaded their new LP, Tell Me I’m Pretty, via the sub-super-sonic-parallelogram magic of the internet and I span it** twice before last night. I quite liked it, producer Dan Auerbach brought some of his influence to bear and I could hear traces of the Black Keys, Beck and others in the tunes, but if I had a criticism it would be that it was a bit of a faint-sounding LP, a little diffident maybe.
So the novelty for me was rocking up to a gig and not knowing anything about the band I was going to see at all, what they looked like, where they were from*^, what they’d play, whether there would be costume changes, or even the basics like whether they’d have nude fire-breathing midgets. The Academy in Liverpool made me feel Goddamned old, in the absolute crushing manner that only a room packed with happy great-looking young folk having a wonderful time can; at a rough count there were only 7 other people in there old enough to remember grunge and I knew three of them from work.
The venue lit up as soon as the band ambled on stage, all 6 of them and launched into their opener and it was soon a mass of heaving, bouncing youth. One thing I liked about Cage The Elephant right from the off was the way that each of them looked like they were in a different band, running the gamut from Southern rock through to buttoned-up indie and they were really good musicians one and all. Another thing that I was mightily impressed with was singer Brad Shultz, who was the best frontman I’d seen for a long, long time – dancing, strutting, jumping about, diving into the crowd (at least twice), the man was a dynamo who didn’t miss a note, or stay still for almost two hours straight. He really had something of Anthony Kiedis about him.
At various points I’m pretty sure I recognized each and every track from Tell Me I’m Pretty, but each and every one had so much more bite live. In fact Cage the Elephant had a really intriguing sound live, there was a groovy and original mix of all manner of great stuff in there, some really interesting rhythmic touches, some Stooges thuggery and a couple of blistering guitar solos courtesy of Nick Bockrath. The band as a whole is a lot heavier live than on the LP I’ve heard and it serves them really well. I really enjoyed myself and that was with me hearing the majority of these songs for the very first time.
My particular highlights were the mutant go-go beat of ‘Cold Cold Cold’, the emotional drama of the ballad-ish ‘Too Late To Say Goodbye’ and the (totally unrecognizable from the LP) ‘Portuguese Knife Fight’^ which I thought was actually a cover of Stooges ‘Loose’ at first, as well as a great earlier track (which almost sounded a bit RHCP, but good!) called ‘In One Ear’. I really enjoyed myself, showed those kids that old guys can dance good and went home all sweaty and happy, although defrosting the 1537-mobile at the station at 11:40 and thinking ‘Hmm, I have to get up for work in 6 and a half hours’, was food for thought.
Cage The Elephant, certainly as a live experience, come highly recommended by me; to the point whereby I invested in some vinyl from them today. And now, I must sleep.
And no there weren’t any nude fire-breathing midgets.
633 Down (still).
*being the well-informed know-all that I am.
**not sure precisely what the correct verb is for MP3s so I’ll stick with ‘span’.
*^other than ‘American’, I understand that it’s a bit of a big place.