Posted by: Richard Frost | 21 Apr 2020

Cage the Elephant gig review

Original publication date: November 2008
Outlet: Hive Magazine
Photos: © Richard Frost

Let’s get one thing straight. Cage the Elephant are not reinventing the wheel. To read recent reviews in the music press, you’d think every new band on the circuit had to instantly top OK Computer, or deservedly fall by the wayside. Cage the Elephant are not Radiohead. Nor are they Muse. Or The Clash.

So what are Cage the Elephant? Well, they’re a good-time Kentucky rock band with a searing punk edge. And they’re not ashamed to wear their influences squarely on their sleeves – Led Zep, The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, The Who. You know, the usual. Funny thing is though, it doesn’t sound jaded in these hands.

Kentucky rock band Cage the Elephant performing in Manchester in 2008

There’s a good reason for this. The driving forces behind Cage the Elephant are Matt Shultz (vocals) and his brother Brad (guitar). Both were brought up in a hard-line Christian commune by a strict father, the kind who liked to smash his sons’ CDs whenever he detected sacrilegious lyrics. The brothers didn’t discover all the bands we grew up with until they left home. It means each song here sounds fresh and alive – every riff sounds like they’ve never heard anything quite like it before.

As a result, Manchester Club Academy is treated to a hi-octane set that judders straight out of the ’70s. Matt Shultz is a whirlwind of hyperactivity and attention-seeking antics, while the rest of the band feel morally impelled to jump off tall objects and dive into the crowd at every given opportunity.

Blame it on the music. James Brown, which despite the name sounds rather like The Hives, gets the improbably young crowd pumping, while Beck-tinged hit Ain’t no Rest for the Wicked sparks a mass crowdsurf. Even the most derivative tracks from Cage the Elephant’s eponymous debut album sound brilliant in this setting. You half expect them to give up playing their own tunes altogether and start raiding Iggy Pop’s back-catalogue instead.

Cage the Elephant's lead singer Matt Shultz at Manchester Club Academy in 2008

And then – gloriously – they do!

Such bare-faced cheek for a bunch of impudent upstarts to defile The Stooges’ I Wanna be your Dog. And on their UK tour debut as well. But somehow, they pull it off, with a rip-roaring version that takes you right back to the very first time Iggy blew your mind.

Derivative? Yes. Thrilling? Definitely.


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