Apparently, my relationship with Cage the Elephant runs deep. I already had the pleasure of seeing them once at their epic New Year Eve’s show in 2011. Then, I met the band last year and had the chance to interview one of the members earlier this year. When I first got into them I didn’t think any of that would happen, let alone seeing them again in concert for a second time. Never one to disappoint Cage the Elephant were on fire. They lit up the sold out theater and made the crowd go wild with them. While I wish it would’ve lasted longer, their amazing performance makes up for their short setlist.
Everyone was already eager for the band since we had to sit through openers J Roddy Watson (pretty bad) and the Foals (pretty good). There’s a chance there were some technical issues as the roadies took longer than usual to set up their instruments. But when they finally did step on stage, all they had to do was say “Chicago!” and the place erupted. They opened with “Spiderhead” causing Matt to break out in his convulsive dancing. As usual everyone sounded great and new touring guitarist Nick Bockrath seems to be a good fit for the band; he acted and played like he’d been a part of the group for years. Lincoln will be missed, but Bockrath is doing a great job.
When they launched into the energetic “In One Ear” Matt peeled off his shirt, showing off his fit physique. At that point it didn’t matter if you were gay, straight, or asexual, everybody wanted a piece of him. Surprisingly, the setlist focused on their latest album. They performed every song from it, except for “Hypocrite,” but they made sure to squeeze in some fan favorites, like “Aberdeen,” which made the crowd go wild. It wasn’t before long til Matt was swimming through the crowd with trusty roadies holding up his mic cord, so could still pull off his distinct vocals. It was around “Take it Or Leave It” where expressed his love for Chicago by calling it the band’s second home. It’s standard for all bands to make wherever city they are feel loved, but since Cage the Elephant have repeatedly come back to the city, the moment feels genuine.
What I love about Matt Shultz is how he loves to perform. He kept leaning forward and looking out over the crowd like he wanted to devour them. It was like he was teasing us by making us question when he was going to jump into the wave of fans. “Cigarette Daydreams” offered a mellow moment before things got rowdy with their hit “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” which got everyone singing. “Telescope” presented another opportunity for the crowd to relax. Some brought out their lighters to complete the soothing mood as Matt crooned “Time is like a leaf in the wind/either it’s time well spent or time I’ve wasted/Don’t waste it.” Though it’s easy to focus all your attention on Matt, the other members are just as energetic. During songs like “Back Against the Wall” and “It’s Just Forever” guitarist Brad Shultz bounced around stage and even laid on his back while still playing at one point, while Bockrath provided impressive backing vocals. Sometimes it’s hard to know who to focus on.
After “Come a Little Closer,” which prompted another break out sing-a-long, the band left the stage causing the crowd to chant “One more song! One more song!” They came back for an encore of “Shake Me Down” and the chaotic “Sabertooth Tiger,” where Matt pushed himself even more. Once again he dove into the crowd during the bridge and crowd surfed while commenting how they were having a hard time holding him up: “I’m only 120 pounds and you can’t hold me up? I need those big guys over there!” The song finished and while the rest of the band left the stage, Matt swam through the crowd. When he made it back on stage he looked over the awe struck crowd and said “Here’s the deal: I want to come back out there and hang with you guys, but you have to put the phones away. Instagram will be there later. It’s not going anywhere.” He went back out there this time performing a handstand in the middle of the audience. It was almost magical to watch.
Matt finally made his way back to the stage, took a bow, bid the city farewell. It’s clear that Cage the Elephant keeps getting better and better, while Matt is proving to be a charismatic, wild, and charming frontman with spectacular abs. They can ensure I’ll always be at their shows when I have the chance.
In One Ear
Take It or Leave It
Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked
Back Against the Wall
It’s Just Forever
Come a Little Closer
Shake Me Down