Gig Review: Death Cult at Rock City

Words: Cameron Ling
Photos: Nigel King
Wednesday 15 November 2023
reading time: min, words

Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy returned to a jam-packed Rock City to celebrate forty years of The Cult's predecessor, Death Cult, reliving deep cuts that spawned one of the most successful bands to come from the UK's illustrious eighties gothic and Hard Rock scene…

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Although Death Cult lasted less than a year before evolving into The Cult in 1984, their eponymous EP rose to number two in the UK independent charts and created a die-hard fanbase throughout the UK and Europe. After shortening their name to The Cult, the group went on to write iconic and acclaimed music synonymous with the eighties like She Sells Sanctuary, Rain and Fire Woman.

Fusing the likes of Joy Division and Bauhaus to Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, they eventually had success in America with Sonic Temple which became a top-ten triumph for the band.

Representing the original line-up that formed in Bradford, West Yorkshire 1983, Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy were due back in Nottingham on a dim and nippy November night. This was the perfect setting for goths and hard rockers from around the area to accumulate in their masses, making their pilgrimage to the sacred Rock City.

Material from the Southern Death Cult, Death Cult and The Cult was on the agenda to the ecstasy of their worshipping fans who eagerly anticipated the back catalogue of a band that has undeniably stood the test of time.

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To start the evening, Rome-based multi-instrumentalist Lili Refrain performed to the zealous early attendees, combining a vast array of styles and techniques that would not sound out of place on David Lynch’s Dune.

Capturing the dark essence that was to come from the headliners, Lili Refrain cast her surreal spells through looping effects, uncompromising guitar licks and hypnotising, operatic vocals that filled the venue and some more.

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On came Death Cult, supporting their approach to the stage was the theme of A Clockwork Orange and eerie, menacing lights. They began their hour-fifteen set with 83rd Dream from The Cult’s debut album, Dreamtime. It was evident from the start that Astbury's voice hadn’t aged one bit, cleanly executing the highs and powerfully hitting the gritty lows.

To the avail of the audience came an unremitting streak of hits from the original Death Cult EP, tracks such as Christians, Brothers Grimm and Gods Zoo splurged out the stage amplified through Duffy's echoing psychedelic riffs often associated with bands like The Doors.

The deep cuts were a-plenty throughout the show, with fan favourites Resurrection Joe, Horse Nation and Spiritwalker fascinating the crowd, providing floor-shaking tracks in return for a sweaty, joyous frenzy.

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Death Cult addressed the demand from the crowd and graced the stage to pay dividends to Astbury's first embodiment, Southern Death Cult, performing Moya which the already wired-up crowd appreciated by colliding together once again.

Before another relentless amping up of the bunched audience for the glorious She Sells Sanctuary. A track so engrained in the memories of the spectators that the first reverberating riff seized the room and created a Shangri-la-like utopia for people who had been waiting for this moment their whole lives.

Death Cult marvelled on an evening perfectly suited to them, while walking back out into the bitter air tormenting Talbot Street it was evident their music never lost its magic nor its captivating elegance which had inspired listeners since the early eighties.

And although Billy Duffy joked “We’ll see you in another forty years,” fans will be reminiscing over tonight's magnificent performance for the next half-century. 

Death Cult performed at Rock City on 13 November 2023.

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