Death Cult Resurrected: A Night of Gothic Reverie and Musical Rediscovery Review+Photos: Death Cult at The Theater at Ace Hotel 10/23/23
LOS ANGELES, CA- It’s not every day that you get to witness a musical resurrection like the one I experienced at The Theater at The Ace Hotel. As a long-time fan of The Cult, I’ve always been drawn to their music, often stumbling upon it in unexpected places like TV shows and movies. Recently, I was head “She Sells Sanctuary” adding a thrilling dimension to a scene in the hit TV series Billions, in the episode “Winston Dick Energy” from season 7. That’s the power of The Cult’s music – it’s timeless and effortlessly cool.
Yet, despite my years of streaming their hits, I realized that I knew surprisingly little about the band’s history. Little did I know that The Cult’s journey began with Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy forming Southern Death Cult, a fact that left me surprised and intrigued. So, when it was announced that Ian and Billy would be playing a series of shows as Death Cult, it piqued my curiosity. This marked the first time in decades that they presented themselves as Death Cult, a special night indeed, especially for those leaning towards the goth-leaning, post-punk side of the musical spectrum. They promised to delve into their Southern Death Cult days and revisit music from the first two Cult albums.
As someone more familiar with their popular hits, this event seemed like a rare opportunity to explore a different facet of The Cult’s musical journey. The setting was perfect – The Theater at The Ace Hotel, an atmospheric venue with a sense of history that added to the anticipation.
The night kicked off with the opening act, Cold Cave. Cold Cave, the brainchild of Wesley Eisold, was joined by Amy Lee, Ryan McMahon, and Anthony Anzaldo. Their setlist was a haunting journey that included songs like “Prayer From Nowhere,” “Glory,” “People Are Poison,” and “Confetti.” Cold Cave’s performance was a hauntingly captivating journey through the darker realms of music, and I found myself thoroughly entranced by their set.
Wesley Eisold’s subdued, enigmatic stage presence, coupled with the ethereal synths and hypnotic beats, created an atmosphere that felt both otherworldly and strangely familiar. Their song selection showcased their ability to craft sonic landscapes that were simultaneously brooding and beautiful. What struck me most was how the massive plumes of smoke enveloping the stage added an even eerier sense of wonder to their music, making each note feel like a mysterious revelation. Cold Cave’s performance was an exquisite prelude to the night, setting the stage for the musical resurrection that followed with Death Cult, and leaving me eager to explore more of their unique and haunting sound.
During the intermission, as I made my way to the restroom, I couldn’t help but notice the incredibly long line for Death Cult merchandise. It was a testament to the fervent anticipation among the fans who had gathered for this special night.
As soon as the lights dimmed and Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy, and their company took the stage, the fans erupted with wild joy. This concert was a celebration for longtime Cult fans, a chance to hear songs that had often been relegated to worn-out cassette tapes or streaming services.
Death Cult’s setlist consisted of 16 songs that spanned Ian and Billy’s collaborative musical journey. While they did play a couple of their seminal The Cult hits like “Rain” to close their main set and “She Sells Sanctuary” during the encore, it was evident that these shows were geared towards the die-hard fans who craved the deep cuts. Some of these songs had been in hibernation for close to 30 years.
One striking example was “83rd Dream,” the song that opened their set. It’s from The Cult’s 1984 album “Dreamtime” and had only been played a handful of times (as far as I could tell) since their tour in support of that album. The band also revisited tracks that were originally written for Death Cult, some of which had been absorbed into The Cult’s repertoire. From the Death Cult album Ghost Dance, songs like “Christians,” “Gods Zoo,” “Brothers Grimm,” “Ghost Dance,” “Horse Nation,” “Butterflies,” and “A Flower In The Desert” were all performed. The balance of the setlist featured The Cult favorites like “The Phoenix” and “Spiritwalker,” as well as some lesser-known gems such as “Dreamtime,” “Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles),” and “Resurrection Joe.” They even sneaked in a Southern Death Cult cover, “Moya,” as the first encore, a personal favorite of mine and a first-time live experience.
During the performance, Ian Astbury expressed heartfelt gratitude for his musical journey and his work with Billy Duffy over the years. It was a poignant moment, reflecting on the significance of this night. In my eyes, this concert was a chance for Ian and Billy to breathe new life into older, lesser-played songs that might not have caught on with fans but held a special place in their hearts. In my eyes, this was a special moment, and I feel that that myself and audience was fortunate to be part of it.
As the final notes of “She Sells Sanctuary” echoed through the theater, I couldn’t help but think that these songs deserved a place in The Cult’s tour repertoire, even when performing as The Cult. There are generations out there who need to discover the fantastic music that lies beyond The Cult’s well-known hits. It was a glorious spectacle to watch, and I hope that Ian and Billy continue to share these hidden gems with the world. In the end, this night was a testament to the enduring power of music and the artists who create it.