Photo Credit: Michelle Pelissero
Not everything lives up to its expectations. Just think of The Dallas Cowboys, Congratulations by MGMT, the Blackberry Playbook, U2′s Spiderman on Broadway, or the latest upgrade of Facebook. Fortunately for me then that this wasn’t true of experiencing Cage the Elephant (CTE) live. I have been looking forward to seeing them for quite some time now and was finally able to recently. The opening slots were filled by Sleeper Agent and Manchester Orchestra, 2 other great bands who also put on stunning performances for this sold out crowd on Memorial Day weekend. This was actually the largest audience that Cage has ever played for, in which they were specifically headlining.
The night started with Sleeper Agent. These newcomers are also Bowling Green natives like their headlining counterparts, and were friends of CTE before they were a band. The sextet is supporting and promoting their debut album, Celabrasion, which should be released August. Peter Gaston of Spin called them one of the best discoveries of SXSW 2011 and those gathered this night couldn’t find much to be let down by. Next up was the increasingly popular Manchester Orchestra, supporting their brand new and just released Simple Math. It was as if each band of the night kept increasing in talent, trying to out perform who played before them.
Cage is quickly and steadily becoming a relatively well known group, mostly due to radio play. Touring to promote their latest release, Happy Birthday, the guys have matured since their first record came out, yet still manage to have a great time. They also know how to bring fans along with them for the roller coaster ride, which is just as important. This is no easy balancing act, but one which CTE knows how to handle with finesse.
Perhaps some of the incredible energy in the atmosphere could be due to the holiday weekend, but not all of it can be explained away that easily. Matt Shultz, the lead singer, has a reputation that precedes him; CTE are known for their highly energetic live shows, and they did not disappoint. They started the show off with the popular “In One Ear”, followed up by new songs “2024″, and one of my favorites, “Aberdeen”. The performance was an explosion of energy that didn’t slow down much, reminiscent of the recent tornadoes. Matt spun and twirled and bounced all over the huge stage. The set list also included “Always Something”, “Around My Head”, “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked”, and “Shake Me Down”. They chose a Pavement song, “False Skorpion”, to cover for the encore.
It’s always rad to see a band that you’re into for the first time when they don’t disappoint you. Not only did CTE not let their fans down, they created new ones. CTE are as good and you hope they are, probably better. For those lucky enough to get there early, they were treated to two of the best support bands touring this year. I’m already looking forward to seeing them again live, although I doubt they will be playing very many venues less than 2000 anytime in the near future.