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Pop Music Review

Fists, Attitude Fly as the Cult Returns With Old Intensity

August 18, 1999|STEVE APPLEFORD

The testosterone was flowing fast and furious at the House of Blues on Monday. At the first of seven sold-out nights, the reunited Cult strutted through a fast-paced set heavy on supercharged rock riffing as at least three all-out brawls erupted on the dance floor.

"It's a game," declared singer Ian Astbury. "It's about us coaxing you to lose your inhibitions and be free. Can you do it?"

Apparently so. But whether Monday's crowd-surfers were there to actually hear the Cult or to make a desperate stab at nostalgia hardly mattered. Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy led the hard-rock quintet--reunited after a four-year hiatus-- with a welcome intensity.

Dressed in snakeskin jeans, Astbury sang chest-beating songs of "freedom" and "revolution" in a voice that was part Steven Tyler, part Jim Morrison. But the sound of the Cult was retro only in part, owing as much to Duffy's punk-edged riffing as to '70s hard rock.

During the band's heyday a decade ago, the Cult bridged a gap between the metal "hair bands" and modern rock. Now including bassist Martyn LeNoble (formerly of Porno for Pyros) and drummer Matt Sorum (formerly of Guns N' Roses), the band is back on the road with plans for a new studio album.

The Cult's future relevance will depend on the quality of new songs, which on Monday sounded promising. But when the band charged through "Sweet Soul Sister," one woman bared her breasts, suggesting that some fans are happy enough with the old ones.


* The Cult plays Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., and Friday, Saturday, Monday and next Wednesday at 9 p.m., at the House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. Sold out. (323) 848-5100.

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