On a cold night with spectacular views of London, lines of fans stood waiting at the doors of Alexandra Palace to see Cage the Elephant’s headlining show. Sheltering myself from the night’s wind, I stood in Ally Pally’s Phoenix bar watching the crowd that seemed to forever be multiplying. This was going to be a night.
My first experience seeing Cage The Elephant was at Chicago’s Lollapalooza Festival in 2014. I had no idea who they were, waiting instead for Kings of Leon who were meant to perform on the exact same stage in two hours.
Fans jumped in the mud, holding tightly to their rain ponchos as the sky opened up to healthy doses of midwestern rain. Then lead singer and ultimate front man Matt Schultz runs onstage in all white, and the crowd forgets completely about the rain streaming down on them. I was instantly captivated.
Their stage presence was intoxicating, to the point where they could get by on that alone. The fact that they were all incredible musicians just added to the beauty of the experience.
When I saw them perform again, this time at New York City’s Governor’s Ball, I knew what I was in for and waited impatiently with all the other fans. I yelled out all the lyrics while Brad Schultz danced across the stage clutching his guitar. Those two shows put Cage the Elephant into my Top 5 best bands to see live.
Their Ally Pally show was another memorable experience. I had no idea what London crowds would be like, or if there would be anyone at all. But, the night of the gig I saw how no matter where in the world Cage the Elephant’s fans were boisterous, loud and ready to dance.
While waiting in the crowd, we all found ourselves dancing to the likes of Childish Gambino and Elvis Castello, energy bouncing off the walls. Some were already jumping up and down, while others rhythmically swayed. This all automatically stopped as the house lights shut off. All you could hear were screams; those in the back, in the front and from my own mouth.
Cage the Elephant start their set with “Broken Boy”, off their 2019 record Social Cues. I lose it, as I hoped they would start with that track.
I feel the crowd jump around me, all of us feeling the effects of the heavy guitar riffs and Matt Schultz’s both sultry and gritty rock vocals. They quickly move into fan favourite’s like “Spiderhead” and “Cold Cold Cold”.
Their set was chockfull of classic tracks. I felt my voice reach new heights singing along with everyone else to “Too Late to Say Goodbye”. But, with a recent album release in 2019 there was plenty of new material to entertain the crowd with.
Radio hit “Social Cues” was even better live, everyone yelling Schultz’s lyrics back to him. My personal favourite “Black Madonna” was a perfect mix of blues rock and pop.
While the band slays music wise, their stage presence is what got me to the gig. Matt Schultz will forever be one of my favourite front men. His dancing can be described as an embodiment of both Mick Jagger’s blues rhythm and Iggy Pop’s punk spirit.
He danced the entire night, a combination of grooving to the band’s riffs, jumping meters into the air, and then slowing down to move his legs and arms resembling Chinese Tai Chi.
It was fun hearing oldies but goodies like “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” and “Come A Little Closer”, jumping and singing my heart out with everyone else in that massive space.
But what made the night for me was hearing the guitar intro to “Cigarette Daydreams”. I was instantly taken back to Chicago 2014, rain streaming down my face as I focused on the lyrics to one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard.
Anytime it plays on my car radio or house speakers I cannot help but smile and sing along. Here in this room with hundreds of fans, I found myself wanting to cry. This was what I was waiting for, an experience that no other band could ever recreate.
Cage The Elephant are a live band, and they are meant to be seen on a stage doing what they do best. I have never felt more certain of anything in my entire life.
I left Ally Pally in a state of eternal bliss. Following the massive crowd down the hill, I kept thinking about Matt’s mid-show speech.
He explained how when he was camping in Kentucky, he would want to make a larger fire by turning over the wood. Sometimes the fire would go out. You never know what will ignite a spark, but he knew that tonight, it was the crowd. Little did he know, it was Cage the Elephant that always ignited the spark in me.
Another gig, another city and another unforgettable experience.
Words by Claudia Arnoldo
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