I still think about this show – a lot. It was great. It was The Cult. I love The Cult. I loved them about the most I ever did at the start of 1995. And more on that in a bit. But most of all this was an important gig because it was the first show I saw in 1995. I would go on to see many more great gigs that year. You see, 1995 was my first year away from home…
I grew up in Hawke’s Bay and we didn’t see a lot of shows – I’d go to Auckland once a year to see the big gigs – Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, Guns n Roses, Paul McCartney. Those were the big stadium shows I saw and loved as a teenager. And in 1993 I also went to Wellington for my first Town Hall show – Faith No More. What a gig that was! (Click that link for a refresher).
The Town Hall in Wellington was a revelation. Was. It’s been shut by red tape for a while now but so many good shows there – the very best of the international scene and some local gems. It was Shihad’s Big Stage Home. The best time I ever saw Nick Cave was there. And from this series of posts I have also talked about Beck – one of the very best shows I’ve ever seen! – also A Town Hall Gig.
So many great Town Hall gigs. And though the very first one was Faith No More – in a way the start of it was really seeing The Cult. Because this was January of 1995. And I whipped down in the car – a few weeks ahead of moving to Wellington for good. The chance was to see The Cult. The excuse was because I’d be doing a final check of the new place before moving there, the new town, the new start. And I would get to see a lot of other great shows in that venue starting almost immediately (The Violent Femmes being the immediate next one, in March of 1995). From there it was to a year – and then many years after – seeing as many gigs as I could with The Town Hall always a favourite venue.
Okay, so – to The Cult.
They’re one of those bands I glommed onto in a second wave; you hear about them – you miss the rise, but then suddenly they’re there for all to discover and you don’t even quite know who put you onto them…they were just a word that was heard, a band you would get to hear.
Violent Femmes, Pixies, The Cult. That might seem a bit like a game of One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others but that’s how I remember it. Femmes first, then the Pixies, then The Cult. All great things – so many memories. I remember ‘discovering’ Guns n Roses and Beastie Boys at the time they were rising, breaking onto the scene. But The Cult had started a full decade before I ever heard them.
That was great though. It was all there. Everything. And in fact it was the compilation Pure Cult that really did it for me – and really deserves to be celebrated (one of the all time great greatest hits compilations I reckon).
There was something very AC/DC about this band – those great stock-rock drum-grooves. There was something a little bit Gunners and Zeppelin too. (And finding out that the drummer that had played with The Cult went on to be in Guns n Roses was kinda important at the time too). And then there was the thing the band had all of its own – a throwback to its goth phase. But these were hard rock anthems that should have just been great, great pop songs (She Sells Sanctuary, Rain, Revolution) and these were also great, great pops songs that were also riff-tastic party-rockers (Lil Devil, Fire Woman, The Witch).
So we loved The Cult. It was one of the bands that got us through high school and then on through university. And Pure Cult arrived just as I started collecting CDs. And a gang of mates all got hooked on The Cult together. They were almost a dudebro band. But we were fortunately never dudebros at all.
And then The Cult released its first “comeback” CD after a hiatus – just called The Cult. And it was quite good. Obviously not a patch on the great first albums that had their highlights compiled as Pure Cult. But it was still not the embarrassing comeback record that some bands offer. They were fighting fit. And they were on their way to New Zealand and Australia for The Big Day Out.
And the night ahead of the Auckland BDO they played a ‘warm-up gig’ (as it was billed) at Wellington’s Town Hall.
And of course I wanted to be there.
I went with my dimwit-bogan cousin. She ditched me as soon as we got in the door, looking for anything to smoke or drink and/or anyone to fuck.
And I stood on my own with the brand new merch-table T-shirt shining on my shoulder.
And I stood there as The Cult played.
The Cult played The Witch. That might have almost been all that mattered. But no. They also played Wild Flower and Lil’ Devil and Sun King and Love Removal Machine. Earth Mofo and She Sells Sanctuary too.
I knew all of these songs – and more – from Pure Cult. And from the albums that I’d started to adore that gave birth to the singles and highlights I’d heard first on Pure Cult. The couple of new songs from the new album (Coming Down, Black Sun) were fine too. Not quite toilet-break songs. Not far off it. But fine.
This was the first concert I went to by myself. It was important for that too.
I mean, sure, technically I went with my cousin. But she disappeared as soon as we got in the door.
I’ve been to hundreds of concerts on my own since. Maybe a thousand. But this was the first exhilarating time.
The Cult was fantastic. Because Billy was a working man’s version of a guitar hero. And Ian was the accessible version of a rock god. They were there. We could smell and feel and almost touch them. And importantly we could hear their very best songs.
But it was about the timing. The very best gigs usually are. The Cult turned up in Wellington just as I did. And just as I was at the peak of my Cult fandom. And so I could never forget it for that.
Some of my mates went and saw The Cult the next day at the Big Day Out. They complained about it being a short set, or not seeming right, or being beaten on the day by bigger acts on after, or maybe better acts on earlier.
But most of my mates that loved The Cult didn’t even get to see that – let alone the gig I got to.
It felt like a trophy for a while. I saw The Cult. At or near their very best. It wouldn’t have meant anything for me to see them in 1987 or 1989 – I wouldn’t have been old enough to care or appreciate them, or frankly aware of their music.
So I saw them at the very best time. And I think about that whenever I dig out Pure Cult or any of the albums I love by this band.
So glad I was there.
A perfect place – the venue – and a perfect place in time.
This started as a series on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook Page