The Cult - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Cult

Live in Grand Rapids (2019)

live show

Surprisingly, The Cult didn’t have an opening act touring with them for the A Sonic Temple tour. A couple days before the show on Friday, May 17th at 20 Monroe Live in downtown Grand Rapids, The War Between was named as support. The War Between is a local duo featuring Colin Clive, guitar player and sometimes vocalist from GR favorites Mustard Plug. He handles guitar and lead vocals. The other guy is Josh Stacey, who like most local drummers seems to play in a bunch of bands. (I know him best from his tie in The Bloody Lips.) In The War Between, he plays bass and does backing vocals, and I assume did the pre recorded drums too. The rest of the “band” comes from a laptop.

To describe their sound, if you don't mind, I'd like to tell a long winded story. Growing up in the late '80s and early '90s in greater Grand Rapids, there was an all ages club north of town called Top of the Rock. (It's most famous for a legendary, early Red Hot Chili Peppers performance.) On the weekends, the club played whatever crappy dance music was popular at the time. On Thursday, they had "alternative" night. This was before every rock band on the radio was referred to as alternative. This was the night that us aspiring local anarchists attended. They played bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode and The Church. For about 15 minutes, they'd even play bands like Misfits, Ministry and Motorhead for us to mosh to. Stacey was probably too young, but I would bet that Clive was part of that scene.

The War Between reminds me of Thursday nights at Top. They sound like clove cigarettes and black mascara. Musically, they are probably best compared to maybe Sisters of Mercy. They're half programmed, but still guitar driven. They get as heavy as early Ministry, and maybe as danceable as New Order. They didn’t seem the least bit intimidated by playing for such a large crowd. (Maybe 2000.) I very much enjoyed their animated half hour set, even though I only knew their cover of Sonic Youth's "100%". I regret that I waited so long to pick up their 2016 LP Goth Beach, but next time I see The War Between I'll be much better prepared.

The Cult is one of those bands that will always have a special place in my heart. In that same late ‘80s/early ‘90s time period, the music on the radio was pretty brutal. The Cult were a refreshing change of pace, offering a real alternative to whatever garbage Aerosmith was churning out. They could walk side by side with the more commercial bands of the time, but offered something darker and with more substance. They also pulled off the very difficult feat of putting out three great records in a row, something that most bands only dream of.

I was excited that The Cult were touring for the 30th anniversary of their most commercially successful album, Sonic Temple. They were actually touring behind that album the first time I saw them. This was, I believe, my fourth time seeing them, but it had been more than 15 years since the last time. If I’m being honest, they weren’t very good when I saw them in the early 2000s. They seemed really wasted and/or out of it (probably their fault), and the sound was bad too (probably not their fault). They certainly redeemed themselves this time around.

They opened with Sonic Temple opener “Sun King”, and the first eight songs came from that LP. They closed that portion of the set with their biggest hits from the record, “Edie (Ciao Baby)” and “Fire Woman”, two songs that remain rock radio staples to this day. Ian Astbury sounded great, hitting all the right notes, even if he didn’t hold them out quite as long as he used to. He still has that Jim Morrison kind of cool vibe too, even after more than 35 years of playing music. Billy Duffy long ago cut his long golden locks, but still comfortably plays the part of the guitar god, cranking out perfect versions of his classic riffs and solos. Journeyman drummer John Tempesta (White Zombie, Testament) kept a rock solid beat, and the band was rounded out by bassist Grant Fitzpatrick and keyboardist Damon Fox.

The oldest song was “Spirit Walker” from 1984’s Dreamtime. The newest songs were “American Gothic” and “Rise” from the 2001 reunion album Beyond Good and Evil. Psychedelic favorite “She Sells Sanctuary” from 1985’s Love closed the regular set, and hard rock masterpiece “Love Removal Machine” from 1987’s Electric wrapped up the three song encore. The Cult still felt vibrant. This was not the kind of show you’d get from a county fair act, which is what many of their contemporaries are at this point. Overall, it was a crowd pleasing set that sent the weekend crowd happily spilling out into the night.

The Cult setlist:

Sun King

New York City

Automatic Blues

Sweet Soul Sister

American Horse

Soul Asylum

Edie (Ciao Baby)

Fire Woman

American Gothic



Spirit Walker

She Sells Sanctuary


Saints are Down


Love Removal Machine