Image: Thornton Drury
This lockdown has me nostalgic for all the music I heard live and the people I listened with. The last concert I attended before the pandemic shook the world was the American rock band Cage the Elephant. They were all set to take the stage in London performing their critically acclaimed album ‘Social Cues’ on the 22nd of February.
No one prepared me for the trek to Ally Pally. It was my first time at Alexander Palace, so you can easily assume how annoyed and tired I was walking from the bus stop to the venue for more than 45 mins. For all the grand visuals it presents, the palace itself is a confusing maze, or maybe the uphill walk disoriented me. But rest assured, I would go through the spleen-paining hike any day to watch them live again.
Walking into the Grand Hall, it's clear that the venue itself didn’t adapt to the band's alternative look, barring the two-tier stage with flames shooting out of it and smoke machines. Waiting for the main act, listening to a playlist on shuffle, the set finally began with Broken Boy from their latest album. Matt Schultz (lead singer) emerged from the blackout and took center stage, amping up the crowd, serving utter chaos. His infectious shape-shifting persona had every person in the audience moshing to Tokyo Smoke and House of Glass, and slow waving and singing their heart out with Love’s The Only Way. With every mosh I was pushed further and further ahead, until I reached the tip of the stage. I was just metres away from the frantic duo, Brad and Matt Schultz, playing to the energy of the crowd.
Social Cues is not a huge transformation from their previous work. The album recalls the sounds of Tell Me I’m Pretty and Melophobia, but this time with more urgency brought by the high tempo punctuated with drumming. You hear similarities with the Black Keys on tracks like Dance Dance and The War is Over, possibly remnants of Dan Auerbach’s work on their 2015 album Tell Me I’m Pretty. Call it garage rock or punk blues, Matt Schultz’s vocals are as versatile as they are familiar.
The set-list was a mix of their new album and older tracks. As the show progressed, Schultz became more vulnerable. He leapt and spun, rocking out to his songs and demanding all the attention in the room; he would bare his soul and we listened to him intently. His struggles with depression, losing loved ones and divorce poured through with Love’s The Only Way, as a tearful Schultz dedicated the song to his wife. Social Cues, like many other rock albums, explores the complexities of life after fame. Not necessarily a subject matter I feel sympathetic towards, but they managed to find new ways to present it.
Cage The Elephant does not let go of you, there are no breaks, there is no lull in their performance. They even wrapped up the night with a final mosh to Sabertooth Tiger and showered us with confetti. The frenzy never stops. Captivated by the electrifying band, this gig lingered in my mind for a while.
Edited by Emma Short, Music Editor