Cage The Elephant at The Academy Dublin on 16th of January 2016

Cage The Elephant embarked on their latest European Tour in The Academy, Dublin with a euphoric bombastic performance that will go down in history as one of the greatest gigs the venue has ever hosted. True, that’s a lofty statement, but the sheer force of nature that is Cage The Elephant did not merely – as the old adage goes – take the roof off, in this instance they turned Middle Abbey Street into a sink hole.

In the modern world of joyless, mannequin DJs and beige pop acts piled high and wide across the radio and charts like cereal in a supermarket, all too often gigs are staid pantomimes with no spontaneity or passion visible onstage. This is often reflected by the fact that many people attending gigs today are more interested in their phones or conversing in breakfast table trivialities than paying attention to the stage, but often that’s because there’s nothing to look at in the first place.

Such accusations could never be placed at Cage The Elephant’s door. Tonight the audience is treated to a masterclass in rock n’ roll performance, and they duly responded in kind; phones remain firmly in pockets and vocal chords are preoccupied with screaming the lyrics back towards the stage. This is how it’s meant to be – this is the rock ‘n roll dream that Hollywood movies sold us brought to life.

But first young English singer-songwriter Declan McKenna and band deliver a set of surprisingly intelligent songs that cover some pretty powerful and political topics, such as workers dying building stadiums for the World Cup in Brazil. It’s little wonder then that McKenna caught the attention of hard-core hip hop act Clippings who recently remixed his track Isombard. McKenna works hard onstage, bouncing about and putting his all into every song. He’s definitely one to keep an eye out for in the coming years, with a quirky mix of output that’s part Jamie T, part Baxter Dury.

Back to the main event, and Cage The Elephant make the audience wait until the expectation in the room is palpable. The Shultz Brothers erupt onto the stage like a juggernaut; rhythm guitarist Brad heading straight onto the barrier to introduce himself to the crowd as the first notes of Cry Baby, the opening track from their latest album ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’, rings out.

Meanwhile lead vocalist Matthew, spring-heeled, bounds around the stage in perpetual motion, commanding the attention of the crowd. One minute he’s on his knees the next he’s making one of his regular visits into the crowd. It isn’t long until his grey suit jacket has visible wings of sweat, and during Spider Head his microphone antics almost take out the bass drum by accident.

It’s hard to keep up with the impassioned onstage antics – similarly, Brad makes several trips across the barrier, guitar in hand, for a spot of crowd-surfing during Ain’t No Rest. He’s out again during final song Teeth where he is joined by his brother, who sings the final section of the song standing upon fans shoulders in the middle of the crowd.

There is little (if any) respite from the bombast and pace of the show or the material. Each member is individually impressive and Shultz’ vocal is remarkably on point at all times considering the amount of energy he expends during the performance. At the moments when the deafening hue of the band subsides for ballads such as Cigarette Daydreams, it is replaced by an appreciative choir of voices roaring them on.

So then, with such a high quality level of performance rarely seen these days and several quality albums under their belt there’s only one reasonable question to ask. Why aren’t Cage The Elephant one of the biggest bands in the world? On the evidence of tonight’s performance they deserve to be just that.

 

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