(All photos by Sophia Barkalakis.)
Cage The Elephant. June 19th. Sold-out WaMu Theater. It was a great time.
The night kicked off with Twin Peaks, a pretty typical garage rock band from Illinois. I’d had their stuff on my concert playlist since March, but always found myself skipping over them when they came on shuffle. I’m not a huge fan of their music — it’s alright, but nothing super exciting or different. When they started their set, however, they were a lot of fun. Honestly, ‘garage rock’ is probably the best way to describe them, because they probably do the same things and play the same way live as they do at band practice. The set was enjoyable to watch, even if you’re not a huge fan of their music, simply because they were having so much fun with it.
After a dramatic drop of the curtain at the back of the stage to reveal Portugal. The Man’s back drop of a flaming car, the band’s hype-man/“announcer” entered the stage. He brought the band on, and stayed on stage for the entire set, dancing, singing along, and interacting with the crowd. Portugal. The Man opened with “Hip-Hop Kids,” one of their most popular tracks, which definitely got the crowd going. Everyone was pushing forward and shouting the chorus back passionately as the band jumped around and warmed up to the crowd. P.TM continued their set with songs from the newer album, and the older ones, but the crowd wasn’t super into it. Everyone was swaying around and throwing their hands up during choruses, but that was about as intense as it got.
“Modern Jesus,” “Holy Roller,” and “Creep in a T-Shirt,” were played later into the set, picking the crowd up a bit, but these were later followed by a long instrumental break which mellowed the crowd. Most of the time, I’m all for impromptu instrumentals, but this one seemed quite long and wasn’t all that exciting to watch or listen to. The band ended on a high note, though, finishing with “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” which got the whole crowd excited and singing along again. Portugal. The Man had a great set; their sound was a really good fit for a Cage The Elephant opener, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them headline their own tour after this one.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity of set changes, the members of Cage The Elephant ran on one at a time. Their stage set up was gorgeous. They had one of the guitarists, the keyboardist, and the drummer up on elevated platforms about three feet off the ground and between the bottom of their platforms and the floor, they had panels of giant light bulbs that lit up in time with the music. After seeing Portugal. The Man’s back drop, I was hoping for something really big and exciting for Cage. However, they just took down the last band’s curtain to reveal more lights. The stage setup fit the band really well; it was very stripped down to the basics, but so is their music. They don’t use tons of fancy vocal effects or extra backing music, it’s just a rock band playing their music and having a great time.
Cage The Elephant opened their set with the first track off their newest album, “Cry Baby.” Before this, it was pretty squished, as concerts usually are, but everyone had a nice amount of room. This all changed very quickly when Matt Shultz, the lead singer, ran on stage. Suddenly, there were around six people packed into the space where one person had previously stood, and there were hands and arms everywhere reaching towards the stage. “Cry Baby” was a great opener for the band; it’s fast, fun, easy to jump around to. The next track threw it back to the first track of their very first album, “In One Ear.” This is the kind of song where, even if you’re not a huge Cage fan, you probably know at least the chorus to this song. Matt was jumping and running all over the stage, and the fans were shouting back the lyrics and climbing over each other in an attempt to reach him.
Cage The Elephant had a set that very rarely took a break to slow down. This became quickly evident as the next track, “Spiderhead,” began. “Spriderhead” is crazy. “Spiderhead” is loud. And that’s just on the album. Live, it was even louder, and the crowd got even more excited. Matt started the song off at the front of the stage, which protruded out into the crowd, singing to all the faces in front of him, and often ducking down to sing even closer to a smaller group of lucky fans. Another song went by, and then the opening notes of “Aberdeen” were played. As usual, the crowd sung along, and Matt ended the track curled up in a ball at the edge of the stage with his mic singing the final “Way back, way back…” with sweat and/or tears dripping down his face.
More songs passed, then the crowd went silent waiting to hear what the next song would be. Everyone screamed as the beginning of “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked,” another classic, began to play. The crowd continued to shout the lyrics back as Matt jumped, skipped, and danced all over. Two more from the new album, then Cage slowed things down for “Telescope.” Tears were everywhere, and the crowd went quiet to watch the band perform. The lights went down to just a few blue ones and some lasers around the singer for an extra dramatic effect.
“Come a Little Closer” was played, and the band left the stage, leaving everyone anxiously waiting for the encore. They came back on with “Cigarette Daydreams,” a slower track. More tears were shed and flashlights were lit as everyone swayed back and forth quietly singing along. Finishing off with two final headbangers, “Shake Me Down” and “Teeth,” the crowd got even more squished, sweaty, and into the music. Matt held hands with more fans and jumped around more before finally finishing the night.
Most bands will throw a single drumstick and maybe a guitar pick for the crowd before leaving the stage. Cage is not that kind of band. They threw multiple drumsticks, picks, water bottles, beer cups, and Matt even ran around collecting the setlists to crumple and throw into the crowd.
Cage the Elephant had an amazing set. The music on their records is fantastic, but the show is even more incredible. The whole night was so high-energy because of the songs and the way that they were performed. It’s fun to see a singer as energetic and as involved in the crowd as Matt was. The show was one of the craziest and most fun I’ve been to, and if you’ve got the chance to see them, definitely go.