CultI like my rock stars to maintain a certain sense of power and mystery while performing live, especially in venues that qualify as arenas. When Ian Astbury of The Cult took the Hammerstein stage looking tall and lean, hair greased back, sunglasses on, shrouded in head-to-toe black, with a shamanistic skirt wrapped over his pants, and a violet neck scarf as flourish, he was perfect. As the new album best sums it up, he was definitely Born Into This.

Yet when Astbury began to spew forth too much information between songs, actually going so far as to state the high price of his “high fashion designer Japanese outfit” while ranting repeatedly against everything from “hipster haircuts” (“this ain’t one of those hipster shows,” says Ian) to “postmodern blogs”, I had to cringe. When he recommended a favorite Tibetan spiritual writer and the book that inspired one of The Cult’s latest epic songs, “I Assassin”, I had to giggle. From the looks of most of the straight up rock dude audience, busy downing beer and Jagermeister, I’d be surprised if any tiny detail of what Astbury went on about would stick the next morning.

You see, Astbury doesn’t need to chit chat about weighty issues to impress us. He’s got a massive presence when he performs (as does his longtime bandmate, golden god guitarist Billy Duffy), so as long as Astbury was singing, shaking his mighty tambourine, or shouting out motivational rock and roll slogans like “Celebrate yourself! Don’t give up your power” before the best of hits like “Fire Woman” or “Revolution”, the stars were aligned. And you just can’t argue with the power of The Cult’s hits, such as “Nirvana”, “She Sells Sanctuary”, “Love”, “Love Removal Machine” (which Astbury dedicated to his “spiritual father, David Bowie”), “Edie (Ciao Baby)”, or “Rise”. The awesome spectacle of the band’s full-on rock show said it all.–MVW/photo by Scott Irvine