Las Vegas Sun

January 18, 2019

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The Cult’s Ian Astbury brings the fire, but can simmer, too

The Cult

Toni Francois

The Cult.

Click to enlarge photo

The Cult.

The Cult Fire Woman

The man who sings “Fire Woman” can be a flame-thrower onstage. But in conversation, Ian Astbury feels more like a candle, warm and calm.

“I’m not the type who seeks the limelight, and I’m not all about accolades,” the frontman for The Cult said in a phone chat Tuesday morning.

“When we’re traveling in these hermetically sealed tours, the environment changes, but what we stay focused on is being at a certain place at a certain time and knowing a show is going to happen.”

The happening tonight is at the Foundry in SLS Las Vegas as The Cult makes its first appearance at the new club to promote its new release, “Hidden City,” issued in February. Doors for this rock revival open at 7 p.m.

Given that The Cult has been a genre-hopping rock band since the early 1980s (hard rock, punk and alternative have been assigned to the band), expect a mix of familiar songs and new releases.

The band’s breakthrough albums of its early era were “Love” from 1985 with the anthemic “She Sells Sanctuary,” the more rock-refined “Electric” (produced by the highly proficient Rick Rubin) and “Sonic Temple.”

The latter release was boosted by powerhouse videos of the time — “Fire Woman,” especially, showed Astbury as a latter-day Jim Morrison as he performed amid a raging fire.

Astbury certainly reminds of Morrison. He fronted the brief Doors of the 21st Century resurrection project in 2002, joining original members Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and Stewart Copeland of The Police (that band played a show at Rain at the Palms).

He is one of a few genuine superstar baritones in rock — Billy Idol and he would top that list — and is always seeking to expand The Cult’s musical approach.

The band has continued to reshape its sound, with Astbury and his artistic complement, guitarist and co-founder Billy Duffy, breaking and reconvening twice over the band’s 30-year career.

“Hidden City” is a hardened album blending punk and genuine heavy metal, with such apt titles as “Dark Energy” and “Avalanche of Light” carrying the mood.

A few other areas of interest for Astbury and the band:

The Cult’s most recent appearance in Las Vegas was an odd pairing: The band co-headlined with Public Enemy at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel. “We were allowed to let our hair down that night,” Astbury recalls. “It was a little looser kind of a show.” (Flavor Flav, in characteristic fashion, scrambled around the stage in a Yankees hat, Brooklyn Nets jersey, oversized basketball shorts and his similarly oversized clock).

He prefers a venue with a classic, rock-and-roll design: Though just opened this January, the Foundry is a classically appointed music venue.

“I like a wooden stage, for starters,” Astbury says. “I like a room built for natural acoustics. No concrete rooms for me. I like old theaters with a certain ambience and feel, built for people to go in and enjoy the sites and sounds of a concert.”

He is a big Elvis fan: “Definitely,” Astbury says. “My first memories of Las Vegas, and of music, are Elvis and ‘Viva Las Vegas,’ that whole period.”

He sees Las Vegas as a “mythical” place: “I grew up in Ontario, but I had a very U.S.-centric cultural influence being near New York City. Las Vegas is like that, a place that resonates in such a way that wouldn’t now if the place is real,” Astbury says. “It’s sort of other-worldly to me.”

His wife, Aimee Nash, and he were married in Las Vegas: This was May 26, 2012, at Little Chapel of the West on the Strip across from Mandalay Bay. “It was very modest, very sweet,” Astbury says.

“But then, you get to read about yourself in People magazine. We were not looking for attention — it wasn’t like Elvis married us. We could have been in a cave somewhere and been happy.”

He just turned 54 years old: That was Friday. “To be honest with you, I am still focused on making records and being in this career. I do not look in the rear-view mirror,” Astbury says.

“I am totally focused on the current project, what happens today and my own energy. We don’t move sideways, and that is one of the reasons I keep moving forward — and why The Cult maintains its momentum.”

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