After rave reviews left and right for their self-titled album, one would think a Cults live show would be a must-see. Their 2011 debut was a well-produced album with a popular single, “Go Outside.” Cults has maintained some of their hype since their initial debut, and unfortunately was a little disappointing when performing at Subterranean on July 26.
After a well done opening set by the local band Suns, Cults opened with the track “Abducted” which set the mood. Geometric patterns, white noise, and psychedelic colors were projected onto the band and into the crowd as lead singer Madeline Follin sang the first few lines.
The first three songs left the crowd intrigued. People were into it, to say the least. A strange pause where Follin left the stage between the third and fourth songs made things start to seem off. After that the show was not as engaging as one might hope.
The mixing, the small venue or some combination of the two left the songs sounding too distorted. Only the bass was heard during “Never Heal Myself,” and it was so loud it was painful. A few people in the audience were actually audibly reacting to the sound. This also happened on “Never Saw The Point.”
Subterranean is indeed very small, and perhaps the fact that the music was contained in such a small space made it feel uncomfortably loud for a band that has gentler sonic moments. Nonetheless, the venue was full, and when things were going well, it was a lot of fun.
But, at times Follin’s voice was hard to hear. When she was audible it was great; she can definitely sing well live. Her voice was somewhat deeper than expected, but still very good. It was strange at moments because on two songs, “Oh My God” and “Rave On,” her voice sounded somewhat altered. Maybe it was the already strange audio issues going on, but it sounded like some sort of filter was applied to her mic to make her voice sound higher. It was difficult to tell, but there was something different going on.
The entire show was short, which is expected because they have one only studio release, but their second album, Static is set for an October 15 release. It seemed as if there was a little bit of an expectation to perform new songs because the album comes out relatively soon. The second song that Cults performed was new, and had a slower, bluesy feel to it. Regardless of its freshness, it was one of the standout moments of the night.
The barely 45-minute set included almost every song from their first album, closing with “Go Outside” and “Oh My God.” The projections and some feedback intentionally continued as Cults left the stage. People stayed, continuing to cheer in hopes of the encore that did not happen.
Cults was fun because it was Cults, but not a memorable live performance by far. After it ended, it was more disappointing than anything because it didn’t sound quite right. Mistakes are natural at a live show; the unpredictability is what makes it interesting. This was simply a mediocre show with bad audio. One can now say they’ve seen Cults, and leave it at that.