Melophobia

Fifth Time’s the Charm: Cage the Elephant in Chicago

Cage the Elephant at UIC Pavilion June 7, 2016

Cage the Elephant at UIC Pavilion June 7, 2016

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.

Advertisements

“Mess Around” – Cage the Elephant

Release Year: 2015

Rating: 7/10

If you guys couldn’t tell by now, Cage the Elephant is one of my favorite bands, so I was surprised when they announced their next album is coming out in December. I sat and eagerly waited for a new single, a snippet, anything to keep me satiated until I could get my hands on the new release. Well, the guys put out their new single “Mess Around” a couple weeks ago. So, how is it?

One thing I noticed right away about the song is it expands on the psychedelic sound they explored on their previous release Melophobia. This isn’t necessarily bad since I really enjoyed the album, but it seems they’re moving away from the hard rock sound that made them so awesome. I would be lying if I said it didn’t disappointment me. I’ve always loved the band for their raw energy, their intense sound, and out of control vibe. While all of this still comes through in their live shows, it’s not in their music as much. With this new song it seems even less likely they’ll revisit that sound and it makes me a little sad.

The song itself is pretty good. It didn’t blow me away or get me really pumped the first time I heard it, but similar to “Come a Little Closer” it grows on you. As usual, I love Matt’s vocals, which are hypnotic and mesmerizing. And while there is no actual chorus, it manages to stay in your head with the simple “ahhh’s” and Matt singing “no she don’t mess around.”

For this album the band teamed up with Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach and you can definitely hear his influence on this song. The weird high pitched squealing guitars will remind you of the Black Keys. The more I heard it, the more it made me think of their song “Fever.” This doesn’t make me like the song anymore or less, but it does make me worry his influence will take over the entire LP.

It may not be a blazing first single, but it still makes me curious as to what Cage the Elephant will do on this album. Seeing their sonic change between Thank You, Happy Birthday and Melophobia, makes me excited to see where they’re taking their sound next.

Musical Quickie: Deep Hands – Cage the Elephant

Cage-The-Elephant-Deep-hands-cover

Release Year: 2014

Rating: 7/10

Early in October, Cage the Elephant released a brief live EP featuring songs from their third album, such as “It’s Just Forever,” “Spiderhead,” and “Cigarette Daydreams.” While the songs choices are good and the band sounds great like the always do, their previous live LP is better in comparison. The biggest issue with this release is the songs were recorded for Guitar Center Sessions, which gives us a more mellow version of the band. Since this isn’t taken from one of their tour shows, it doesn’t capture the charm, craziness, and energy they usually have on stage. They don’t come off as fun and spontaneous like they do normally. It does a good job at wetting fans’ appetite for new CTE material, but their previous live release is far better. Let’s just hope they’ll put out another live LP very soon.

Cage the Elephant: So Good I Needed it Twice

20140803_011438Cage the Elephant at the Vic August 2, 2014

While most music fans were enjoying the rain and mud that waited for them at Lollapalooza, I waited in line outside the Vic Saturday night for a sold out Cage the Elephant show. I already saw them in May, but when this show was announced I knew I had to go. They’re such an amazing live band I never want to miss them when they come to their favorite city. And as I expected, they delivered even harder this time around.

The first time Cage the Elephant came to Chicago this year, The Foals opened for them. I did enjoy them quite a bit, but I liked Bear Hands even more. Their songs were fun, energetic, and entertaining. I was really impressed by how each member could play every instrument on stage. It was great to see the drummer banging away on his kit to then play keyboard on the next track. Also, their songs were pretty short, which was my biggest issue with The Foals. I liked their songs a lot, but I was so eager to see Cage the Elephant I just wanted them off the stage. It also didn’t help that their songs felt ten minutes long.

Because I had such a great spot I could see the band in all their glory. They all came out one by one with guitarist Nick Bockrath showing off his Bulls jersey, number 23 of course. Brad Shultz stepped up to the mic and said “Two years ago we stood on this stage and had the best show of our lives.” When Matt Shultz sauntered out, the place exploded and hearts were broken. Looking suave in a black button up shirt and white pants, he wiggled and clapped along to “Spiderhead.” Even though they put on a great show at the Aragon it was even better at the Vic. They sounded amazing and Matt gave his all when it came to signing. Plus, it’s hard not to be infected by his Elaine-like writhing dance moves.

I was a little disappointed with the setlist because it was exactly what they played earlier in the year. Since this was a 17 and older show and an aftershow for Lollapalooza, I thought they would either have a longer setlist or toss in some different songs. Though this didn’t happen, I still enjoyed their performance. They put so much energy, passion, and insanity into their show I didn’t mind hearing the songs again. It also helps that the setlist is pretty good in the first place. Also, it’s impossible to not fall in love with Matt. Every time I see him hop, bounce, and shake on stage I only like him more. He even brought up some new moves like sitting on his brother’s back while he plays guitar. It was really cool to see and made the crowd go nuts.

Some of the biggest highlights included a massive sing along during “Come a Little Closer,” “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” and “Shake Me Down,” which found the singer stopping several times to let the audience take over. A funny moment happened when a bra was tossed on stage. Matt picked it up and said “Thanks. Is this some sort of chin strap?” As you would expect there was a lot of stage diving. This time Brad and Nick joined Matt on the action. As Matt waded through the crowd, he was handed a Sox hat, which he put on. He then motioned to someone else and was handed a Cubs hat. Rather than choosing favorites, he rocked them both and made sure to return the hats to their rightful owners. There was also a bit where cigarettes were tossed on stage. Matt picked it up and started ranting about how much he hated menthol cigarettes. It was random, weird, and slightly adorable.

All throughout, each member made sure the crowd knew how much they loved them and the city. Some blew kisses, some waved, but Brad said it best with “We fucking love you! Everyone in this room!” It’s an unwritten rule that every band on tour has to “love”every place they visit, but what makes Cage the Elephant so genuine is the amount of times they performed in the city in one year. They’ve already played four different shows here and will come back with the Black Keys this fall. That’s gotta be love. I know I already said it many times, but I’m gonna say it again: Cage the Elephant kick ass live. No matter how many of their shows you attend, they’re all memorable and epic.

Complete Setlist:

Spiderhead

In One Ear

Aberdeen

Take It or Leave It

Cigarette Daydreams

Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

Halo

Telescope

Back Against the Wall

Black Widow

It’s Just Forever

Teeth

Come a Little Closer

Encore:

Shake Me Down

Sabertooth Tiger

Curing “Melophobia” with Cage The Elephant: Live in Chicago

20140514_215009Cage the Elephant live at Aragon Ballroom May 15, 2014

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.

Complete Setlist:

Spiderhead

In One Ear

Aberdeen

Take It or Leave It

Cigarette Daydreams

Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

Halo

Telescope

Back Against the Wall

Black Widow

It’s Just Forever

Teeth

Come a Little Closer

Encore:

Shake Me Down

Sabertooth Tiger