The Cult + The Mission @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – 15 September 2012

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Review by Paul Quinton

This tour had something of a tortuous journey to get started but in the end proved to be a hugely enjoyable gig. Originally intended as a three-band bill with Killing Joke due to open the show and the Birmingham gig originally booked into the LG Arena, the, shall we say, ‘disappointing’ ticket sales led to the tour being relocated to smaller venues. And then, for reasons that remain unclear, Killing Joke dropped out of the whole tour. Various names, All About Eve being one, were rumoured as a replacement, but in the end, the Cult and the Mish elected to play as a two-hander with extended sets.

Upon entrance, the crowd were greeted by the site of an awkward-looking DJ onstage, his head nodding away as he perfunctorily changed CDs. But when the strains of the Elgar intro tape filled the smoke-filled stage, a huge cheer was raised and it was time for the crowd to revisit their acquaintance with one of the most intense, involving and passionate live bands ever to grace the stage.

A couple of years ago, Wayne Hussey had been quoted as saying that The Mission currently meant very little to him, but reuniting three quarters of the original line-up (drummer Michael Brown has been replaced by Mike Kelly) seems to have reawakened his appetite, and if this set is anything to go by, positively rejuvenated the whole concept of the band. Opening with a blistering ‘Beyond the Pale’, the pace and intensity of the show rarely let up.

Perhaps wisely, they chose to play a ‘greatest hits’ show, with only one new song, ‘Falling’, but even then managed to keep things fresh with some perhaps surprising choices rather than obvious crowd pleasers. We heard ‘Naked and Savage’ and ‘Crystal Ocean’ – with Simon Hinkler playing keyboards – rather than stuff like the frequently-shouted-for ‘Blood Brothers’ or ‘Serpent’s Kiss’. We also got a superb ‘Severina’ with Craig Adams doing a fine job on the harmony vocals, although I would have loved to see Julianne Regan walk out to recreate the stunning job she did on the original, and ‘Butterfly On A Wheel’, with some fervent singing by the crowd. There was a tumultuous ‘Wasteland’, with the scenes in the crowd recreating some of the wilder nights of the band’s early days, and the main set was brought to a close with ‘Deliverance’, with the band leaving the stage one by one as the crowd sang the chorus. Obviously there were encores. The band’s long-standing cover of Neil Young’s ‘Like a Hurricane’ led into ‘Tower of Strength’ giving the crowd one last chance for community singing.

Wayne Hussey left the crowd with the tantalising prospect of a new album and another tour at the end of 2013 with an as-yet unnamed band – maybe All About Eve? – I was left wondering how many old-time Mission fans missed the human pyramid from the early days. An absolutely brilliant set, powerful, atmospheric and superbly played: one of the best shows I’ve seen all year.

There were rumours around the ‘net that the crowd thinned somewhat when the Mission had finished weaving their magic. This wasn‘t particularly obvious from where I was, but it is fair to say that The Cult don’t inspire the same kind of devotion that the Mission do, although they got a big cheer when their lengthy intro tape ended and the band opened with a sprightly ‘Lil’ Devil’. Unlike The Mission, The Cult did have a new album to plug and songs from it were spread generously around the set, although they were canny enough to alternate the new material with older songs. ‘Lil’ Devil’ was followed by ‘Rain’, a track that prompted some serious action in the pit and much in the way of consternation to the Academy’s security. The lengthy chunk of newer material that followed dampened things down a little, particularly ‘Embers’, a quite bluesy song, which, good song though it is, almost meant the gig had to be resuscitated. It didn’t help matters when another older song, ‘Phoenix’, was broken up with solos, even if they were quite brief.

There’s been criticism of the band in the past that they can sometimes look disinterested or emotionless on stage, but there wasn’t much sign of that tonight. Ian Astbury certainly looked cheerful enough, although he did ramble a bit in his between-song chat, and Billy Duffy was on top form on guitar. They certainly have a lot of faith in their new songs, confident enough to leave songs as good and popular as ‘Love’ and ‘Sweet Soul Sister’, and there’s no doubt the crowd were behind them all the way.

Of the new songs, there seemed to be a tendency to head in a heavier direction, particularly when hearing the Sabbath-like riffing on ‘When’. Closing the main set with the salvo of ‘Spirit Walker’, ‘Wild Flower’ and ‘Sanctuary’, it was mayhem in the stalls, but in the nicest possible way. With just a single encore, ‘Love Removal Machine’, they were done.

Although the brilliance of the Mission’s set overshadowed the Cult’s efforts, this was a cracking gig overall, and this joint headlining thing seemed to come off in a big way. As for the Mission, it’s great to see them back in such fine shape, and whoever their mystery guests are on this 2013 tour, I’m very much looking forward to see them again.

  •  Editor’s Note: Unfortunately we do not have photos from the show as we were asked to sign a contract granting all rights to the artist, meaning that we would need permission to use our own photos and that they could use them for whatever commercial gain they wished without payment to the photographer. We naturally declined.