Rock ’n’ roll hootchie koo

The Cult rocked a small but dedicated crowd at the Memorial Auditorium on Sunday night, touring in support of Beyond Good and Evil, the band’s first release of new material in over six years.

Fans of Stabbing Westward, which was slated to open, were disappointed to arrive and find notices posted that the band would not be appearing that evening. Bird went on instead. Apparently the band’s singer/guitarist took its name to heart, performing in huge white angel wings that clashed badly with his wife-beater and tattoos. As for the band’s music, well, it was for the birds.

The un-relentless Monster Magnet hit the stage next—or, rather, bounced on the stage atop huge trampolines. I believe the intention of these props was to create an illusion of boundless energy, but instead singer Dave Wyndorf looked like a white-trash Tigger on a bender, demonstrating how many different ways he can simulate sex with a microphone stand. How this band manages to squeeze into such great tour packages is baffling—Fear Factory and Rob Zombie, Hole and Marilyn Manson. Monster Magnet always manages to surround itself with great bands the way a hole surrounds itself with a donut. While its Motörhead meets Lynyrd Skynyrd brand of rock has spawned a couple of successful radio singles, I’ve met few true fans.

Finally, the Cult graced the stage, kicking off with “Rise,” the first single off Beyond Good and Evil. The Cult seemed to liven up as it busted out the “old-old school,” as singer Ian Astbury put it, playing “Lil’ Devil” and “Peace Dog” from Electric. Astbury got a little too lively on the latter, swinging his microphone around and accidentally bopping his bassist in the mouth. The show continued with a collection of older favorites—“Rain,” “She Sells Sanctuary,” “Edie,” “Sweet Soul Sister” and “Wildflower.”

Astbury prowled the stage, his shorter hair pulled back from his face with a bandana, working the crowd with charisma and energy. His earthy vocals resonated on songs like “The Witch,” where the whole crowd was shaking along with his tambourine. Red lighting bathed the stage during the classic “Firewoman,” while guitarist Billy Duffy’s searing riffs lingered in the air like cigarette smoke. While the band’s performance was nothing less than superb, the sound engineer couldn’t mix pancake batter, let alone a soundboard; blasts of feedback and uneven levels of guitar and bass compromised the mix. The band departed the stage briefly, throwing out picks and drumsticks, most of which were snatched away from angry fans by an Event Staff member who flaunted the objects before stuffing them greedily into his pockets. The Cult reappeared to encore with “War” and an unexpected performance of “Nirvana.” Closing with one of its most beloved hits, “Love Removal Machine,” the Cult gratefully thanked its fans. Despite the sound problems, it was an electrifying show from one of the last true bands that sticks to the simple basics of earth, soul and rock ’n’ roll.