Ever since their second album Thank You, Happy Birthday I’ve been a huge fan of Cage the Elephant. Seeing them for the first time in 2011 at the Aragon Ballroom cemented them as one of the best live bands. This past Tuesday night marked the fifth time of seeing them on stage and they didn’t fail to disappoint. It wasn’t the same intimate theater setting they usually play, but they didn’t let it intimidate them. They commanded the stage with the same fire, energy, excitement, and passion they bring to every show proving themselves to be comfortable performing to bigger crowds.
Morning Teleportation and Portugal. The Man were the opening acts, which I intentionally missed. I was miffed that the first band was added at a later time. Personally, I hate concerts with more than one opening band especially when it’s two bands I don’t care about. Not only do I hate sitting through them, I feel it takes away time from the band I really want to see. So I caught the last two songs from Portugal. The Man and they seemed alright. They at least riled up the crowd and prepared them for Cage. Finally, the band walked out on stage one by one with Brad Shultz strutting around on stage with so much swagger. Matt hit the stage last greeting the crowd with a big smile dimples and all.
They opened with “Cry Baby” from their new album Tell Me I’m Pretty. Matt wasted no time dancing and shaking like he was about to fall over. After that they launched straight into fan favorite “In One Ear,” which exploded the entire venue. No matter how many times I hear the song live, it sounds better each time they do it. It never gets old and it’s great to see it’s a staple of their live shows. Matt stumbled and jumped around stage with the same energy and passion you’d imagine he would have at the start of the tour. They turned UIC Pavilion into a dance party with tracks like “Spiderhead,” “Take It Or Leave It,” “Mess Around,” and “Aberdeen.” Matt’s not afraid of losing himself in the music as he dropped to his knees headbanging while guitarist Nick Bockrath shredded away. Matt even showed Brad some love as the two embraced in a headlock while Brad continued to play as if nothing is going on.
The band finally gave fans time to catch their breath during slow tracks “Too Late to Say Goodbye” and “Trouble.” I was actually surprised how just about every person in the venue knew the words to these songs. Matt stopped several times to let the crowd take over on vocals, holding out the mic with a big smile on his face. Usually when a band plays new songs, fans politely listen waiting for the band to get back to songs they know. That wasn’t the case with Cage the Elephant. The crowd was actually excited to hear every song from the new album they played.
But the evening wasn’t perfect. The band had a few feedback issues, but the biggest problem was the arena itself. I’ve never been to UIC Pavilion for a show before, but I was disappointed with the sound. It doesn’t have the best acoustics, which made it difficult to hear the band at times. In between songs Matt took time to address the crowd, yet it was hard to make out what he was saying. The venue wasn’t very kind to the band, but they powered through it and didn’t let sound problems bother them.
A lot of the songs from the setlist were culled from their last tour: most of it was from Melophobia with few tracks from their first two releases. Of course songs from the new album got the most spotlight. It’s not a bad thing, but it would’ve been nice to shake up a few things. Pull out some older tracks they haven’t played since 2011 or leaves off tracks like “Telescope” or “Come a Little Closer,” which feel overplayed at this point. But while you were there you didn’t care what they played; you just wanted to hear them.
During songs “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” “Back Against the Wall,” and “Cigarette Daydreams” the crowd let their voices ring out, singing so loud it drowned out the band. At that moment, the attention turned to the audience who sang every word with Matt, something you didn’t see too much at their shows a few years ago. As a fan it was an amazing sight to see. The thought of all Cage the Elephant fans coming together for one night and sing these songs as they had done many times in their bedrooms.
After “Come a Little Closer,” which prompted more sing-a-longs, the band returned for a three song encore: “Cigarette Daydreams,” “Shake Me Down,” and “Teeth.” It wasn’t until the last song that Matt unleashed any pent up energy and dove into the crowd, something that’s a staple at Cage the Elephant’s live shows. While Matt swam through fans to get back to the stage, the rest of the band took a bow and walked off with Brad flipping his guitar in the air and leaving with more swagger. Once he got back on stage, Matt stayed behind throwing picks, shirts, and random gifts to loyal fans. With one last smile he ran off leaving the venue filled with screeching guitar feedback.
Even though the venue kind of sucked, there were sound problems, and it wasn’t a small theater they still killed it. The vibe of the night was about having fun and dancing the night away. Matt was as charming and hyper as ever. Every time he moved, the crowd moved trying to copy his spastic dance moves. Though I still prefer them in more intimate settings, it’s great to see they can thrill larger audiences especially since it seems like their concerts are only going to get bigger. I didn’t leave the concert with the usual high I get from shows, probably because this was my fifth time of seeing them, but I still had a big smile on my face. It was an amazing pick me up from a crappy week and I’m already looking forward to the next Cage the Elephant show.