LIVE REVIEW: Cage The Elephant, Electric Ballroom, 17/02/14

Photograph by Pooneh Ghana
Photograph by Pooneh Ghana

The night unfortunately started a little late for me, all thanks to a quick drink accidentally turning into a few more at The Good Mixer, staple of the Camden pub-scene nestled nearly opposite the iconic Electric Ballroom. Despite this meaning I missed the first few songs of New York based support band Drowners, it was clear to see they were fulfilling their task of pumping up the crowd quite admirably. It’s not that often that you struggle to find much floor space not far into the support band’s set, but that’s the dilemma any latecomers were faced with. Drowners didn’t waste time with any frivolity or excessive crowd interaction, but their easy-going New York pop rock provided the perfect beginning to what promised to be an incredible night.

After Drowners departed, it seemed like there was barely enough time to find your footing before the crowd surged forward, sweeping up anyone and everyone. Shortly after 9 o’clock, for the first time since 2011, Cage The Elephant took to the stage of The Electric Ballroom. Guitarist Brad Shultz treated the audience to a small hello; grinning as he announced, “we’re back, motherfuckers!” Lead Singer Matt Shultz joins the stage seconds later, and the band erupt into ‘Spiderhead’, opener to their 2013 release ‘Melophobia’. It’s a comparison that’s been made a thousand times, but watching Matt Shultz on stage is like watching Mick Jagger in his heyday – while you’re both on acid. He’s almost like some sort of twisted conductor, with every erratic movement eliciting an equally erratic response from an audience hanging on his every breath. Cage move through an expertly constructed setlist, combining the best of the three phenomenal albums they’ve released since 2008. Matt’s raw vocals were complimented perfectly by the rest of the Kentucky-based-quartet’s raucous, pounding music.

It was delightfully clear that both the band and the audience were thriving off each other’s extraordinary energy, it didn’t seem like their set would ever end – and it definitely didn’t seem like anyone wanted it to. Matt even quipped that he wanted to create a little commune right in the middle of the venue. It only took until the second song, crowd-pleasing ‘In One Ear’ for Matt to throw himself off of the stage to grabbing hands. After dragging himself back to his band mates, Cage continued to play with the audience. They flowed gently through slower hits such as ‘Halo’ and ‘Cigarette Daydream’ before crashing into punishingly volatile songs like ‘Indy Kids’ and ‘Teeth’, all the while maintaining an incomparable amount of energy.

It seemed like every single thing in the Electric Ballroom that night was about to break, breathing or not, when Cage The Elephant left the stage for a thankfully brief pause before their encore. I thought it was impossible for the crowd to move any closer, but when the first bar of the hauntingly beautiful ‘Shake Me Down’ kicked in it felt like every human being in the venue was pressed up against the metal bar that barely separated us from them. It didn’t seem to matter if you were young or old, a new fan or a Cage veteran, every human being present seemed to be screaming the lyrics until their lungs couldn’t take it anymore. The band offered no respite, and erupted into ‘Sabertooth Tiger’, one of the more capricious songs from their second album. Of course Matt wasn’t going to spend the last song confined to the stage, and he somehow managed to stand up on the sea of sweating, ecstatic people to offer his final farewell. After berating an unseen face for trying to steal his shoe, Shultz turned and calmly continued; “anyways, here’s what I wanted to say. He’s a Sabertooth Tiger!”, screeching the last line before collapsing into the gasping crowd to an explosion of music from the stage behind him. After being dragged out once more, Matt flashed a look at the security guard stood next to him that wasn’t looking for permission, rather warning him that there was nothing getting in the way of him climbing right back into the heaving crowd. Eventually he was pulled out for the final time, and joined in with the rest of the band’s elated yet humble goodbye. It would be surprising if a single person left that gig without some bruised ribs at least, but the memories of such a gut-wrenchingly exceptional night will live on for far longer than any injury.

 By Georgia Lee.

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