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Arts & Entertainment Presented by Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts


Paul Mann: The Cult Storms Through Chumash Casino Resort

By L. Paul Mann, Noozhawk Contributing Writer |

The English hard-rock band The Cult played an aggressive ear-splitting show in the Samala Showroom at the Chumash Casino Resort on July 24. Generations of hard-rock fans seemed delighted to be wallowing in the immersive thundering beat, indicative of an old school rock show.

The Cult
The Cult performed an explosive concert July 25 for fans at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez. (L. Paul Mann / Noozhawk photo)

But even as the thundering volume filled every corner of the venue, the elements of the sound maintained a near-perfect balance, another testament to what is no doubt the best sound system of any venue in the Tri-Counties. Although I have mentioned it in the past, I cannot stress enough how imperative a quality sound system is for a performance by a band like The Cult. No matter where you sat or stood in the showroom that night, the explosive sound came across crisp and clear — from the highest vocals to the lowest rumbles of the bass and drums. The near-perfect sound is no accident, with no expense spared in installing and utilizing the enormous sound system at the Chumash Casino Resort venue.

The Cult took full advantage of the towering system to tear through a no-nonsense, 90-minute set of some of their best songs. The band has built an enormous library of music, with no fewer than 10 full-length releases in the 30-plus years that the band has been together.

Fronted by charismatic lead singer Ian Astbury and lead guitarist extraordanaire Billy Duffy, the five-member group of veteran rockers captured the crowd's attention from the moment they stepped onstage.

The band actually dates back to the dawn of the new wave movement in 1981, when they were called The Southern Death Cult. The group emerged initially with a post-punk, Goth-inspired sound, about the same time that The Cure and Depeche Mode were entering the music charts with hit songs. The band changed their name eventually to The Cult and had some initial success, culminating with their classic rock hit of that era, “She Sells Sanctuary.”

In 1987, the band hooked up with master producer Rick Rubin, who shepherded the group into a more mainstream rock sound, which led to commercial success. Since then, the band has undergone numerous transformations, with a who’s who of 1980s rock veterans rotating through The Cult.

But Astbury has always led the group with his trademark vocal wail. The enigmatic singer has steered the band through decades of political and personal turmoil, sharing much of the same artistic anguish as Jim Morrison, his spiritual role model. From a fascination with indigenous religion that directly affected the sound and style of the band, to an actual stint as the lead singer of the New Doors, Astbury does seem to channel the energetic style of Morrison onstage.

Paired with the fierce guitar style of Billy Duffy, the two produce nearly the same dynamic live sound that they pioneered 30 years ago. Unlike many musicians of their genre, the pair have not mellowed into a more demure-sounding '80s nostalgic rock band. Instead, they continue to deliver live rock shows in the vein of testosterone-infused young rebel musicians.

The customary opening of the front of the stage for dance-crazed fans came halfway through the show at the showroom last Thursday. That sent music fans of all ages thrashing about like teenagers, fueled by the timeless energy infused in the live performance of this powerhouse rock group.

Long live The Cult.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.

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