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Gig Review - Cage the Elephant

Gig Review - Cage the Elephant

Storm Dennis was doing it’s best (but failing) to disrupt fans from getting to the O2 Academy. The opening band, Post Animal are from Chicago so I guess this feels like a normal Monday night in February to them. They warmed us up with “Post Animal” and then settled in to the updated version of an old school prog rock set. Taking turns to lead the vocals (they share writing duties, and the writer of the song leads the vocals), we got rich vocal harmonies, tempo changes and machine gun drum fills, intricate keyboards and guitarists passing solos back and forth. If they threw in some references to swords and sorcery and the odd 14 minute drum solo I could have been transported back to an age when my jacket was trendy. Sheer prog magic, in the classic style of bands like Yes and Traffic.

The show followed real life from the ‘70s as the roadies took the keyboards and most of the drums away and prog rock was replaced by punk rock. SWMRS bounced onstage to an enthusiastic reception from the youthful crowd and launched straight into “Palm Trees”. The crowd jumped and heaved through the energetic set and the relentless pace and rag-doll dancing on stage were happy confirmation that the band are back at full strength after last October’s bus crash. High points for me were “Trashbag Baby” and “Lose Lose Lose” (the crowd dutifully lost it) from the new album, which bolstered the middle of the set. They only had time for 8 songs but the crowd looked like they’d happily keep this going all night.

And then we got Cage the Elephant! Matt Shultz swaggered onto the stage in a grey suit, weird hat, bumbag (fanny-pack, for any Americans reading this) and glittery shoes, topped off with a golf umbrella. Maybe they’re not so used to this weather in Kentucky? I first saw these guys touring their first album in King Tut’s in 2008 – my, what a change! The great songwriting continues, but the showmanship is on a different level. The lead guitarist dived into the crowd and surfed around for the duration of “No Rest for the Wicked”, and Matt Shultz strutted and pranced through the show like someone’s grafted Mick Jagger’s moves onto Iggy Pop’s body. He even managed a headstand during “Cold Cold Cold”, and he was sweating like a racehorse and down to just his trousers by halfway through the set. I was hoping the bumbag would explode into a massive pyro event but no such luck – I must’ve been to too many Rammstein gigs. Behind all this is some phenomenal musicianship, and the variety of styles of music they can turn their hands to makes them impossible to pigeon-hole. We may be witnessing the start of a genre-neutral movement.

Starting their show with “Broken Boy”, from the new album “Social Cues”, they played through 20 tracks picked from across their whole catalogue and by the time they got to their fifth tune “Cold Cold Cold”, the crowd were all out going for it: moshing, surfing, dancing and singing. We were treated to a really strong set, with “Cold Cold Cold”, “Mess Around”, “Trouble”, “No Rest for the Wicked”, “Cigarette Daydreams” and “Teeth” perhaps edging it in the crowd-pleasing stakes.