A more spectacular setting for a Rock n Roll show you won’t find. Set inside the grounds of Cardiff Castle it’s a great place to watch live music. The date is Tuesday the 4th of July and one epic lineup of three of my favourite bands are gathered together for a show. I’ve had the privilege of seeing these three bands as a collective mass of well over three figures. Stretching back to the ‘Love’ days for tonight’s headliners and seeing them on several continents as it goes. I’ve seen some remarkable performances as well as the odd indifferent one it must be said. So, let it rain down, no, quite literally let it rain.

As I made my way through the gates the skies opened and we managed to get drenched for the first time. As Lili Refrain took to the stage for her performance which has to be said, is an acquired taste, she works her magic with loops, a floor tom, and telecaster. It’s certainly captivating as she weaves her way through her 30-minute set winning over new admirers looking for some ambient vibes. She also set the tone by looking delighted to be there rain or shine.

Next up, The Mission. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing them at a recent show in Barcelona as well as reading the second installment of Wayne’s new autobiography. So believe me when I say that their addition to the lineup was a majestic announcment in my house. So Even if it was at the ungodly hour of before 7 pm when they took to the stage. Goths out in the wild before sundown? What sun I hear you say wasn’t it pissing down. Daylight and we’re treated to the intro of ‘Tower Of Strength’. Not a place any self-respecting Goth would be other than under such exceptional circumstances.

The Gods however held the sun back and instead decided to drench the audience just as the band took the stage. Opening with the big hitter that is ‘Tower Of Strength’ set us up nicely for what was to come over the next forty-five minutes. If I was to say I didn’t notice it was pissing down would be a bit of a fib but I couldn’t care any less as ‘Beyond The Pale’ collided into ‘Met-Amor-phsis’ before ‘Severina’ gave us a breather. Hussey and the band have been on the road for a while and looked and sounded locked in and battle ready and understanding that when playing for an audience, possibly made up of other bands’ fans (obviously there’s a decent cross-over tonight) its important to give em something they might know and a reminder that, Bloody Hell these are pretty bloody good at this Rock n roll lark.

With the clock ticking it was time to smash it out of the grounds with a hattrick of ‘Butterfly On A Wheel’, ‘Wastelands’, and finishing off with the punchy ‘Deliverance’ and just as they were hitting their stride it was adios amigos. Now that’s a way to take a short and sweet set early doors and lay down the gauntlet to the rest. Now follow that. See you in the Roundhouse in October – Can’t wait.

With the unenviable task of following a short sharp set from The Mission, Mike Peters and The Alarm seem up for the challenge, and whilst you’d think it was a no-brainer playing in Wales it’s not a foregone conclusion that someone elses audience will “get you”. Starting their set with ‘Coming Home’ there were no vocals or guitars in the PA and the rain had thrown a spanner in the works it would seem, what a bummer. Never undeterred the band carried on as you’d expect. Next up they went with their biggest hitter or at least a track that most people (unless they lived under a rock for the last 40 years) would at least be familiar with. Now I’m all for trying new things and I’ve seen Peters enough times to know he does like to rework old songs but not sure this was the place to do it, even if the vocals and guitar were restored I think it would have been better to just pile into the song as most would know it. A lost opportunity? Maybe, Who knows considering they only have 45 minutes to impress but that’s just my take on it.

Next up was ‘Warriors’ which offered something more aggressive and something with a bit of grunt that would grab the attention of the soaked masses, lifted from their recent(ish) ‘War’ album. It got the crowd involved with its rattling rhythm and tempo and sound problems seemed to have been sorted so nothing to distract the band further, just what the crowd needed.

‘Where Were You Hiding’ went down a treat and might have been responsible for the weather Gods being stirred again and the heavens opened once more. Some recent songs from ‘Sigma’ and ‘Equals’ were aired which is great for people like me who are happy to hear newer material pepper the set but for the casual fan there to see The Headliners maybe it was time to bang out a greatest hits set and do it with plenty of punch. But hey, I only want the best for the bands I love and I do love the Alarm. Peters was manouvering his way across the stage making full use of the four mics even if they were all set at different volumes and the sound guys seemed slow to react. Keeping the engineers on their toes is always nice.

As we headed into the final third of the set it was a great choice to play ‘Superchannel’ a song I’ve always loved and maybe one to open with it has a great energy and helped pick the soaked crowd up with some good crowd interaction. It was the home straight as ‘The Stand’ preceded the opening piece of ‘Spirit of 76’ which made way for the apt ‘Rain In The Summertime’ which then segwayed back into ‘Spirit’ and that was that over way too quickly but that’s outdoor events for you. I thought they could have run wth the Weather theme maybe included ‘Raindown’, ‘Two Rivers’, ‘Howling Wind’, ‘Only The Thunder’, ‘Sold Me Down The River’, there are several more water or rain based songs I never realised and ended with ‘Rescue Me’ ok I’ll get me coat (I wish I had).

Anyway, a set that was dogged by technical issues like when James Guitar just fell out of the mix for no reason that must have played a factor in the performance, but from the audience’s view, I found it frustrating. However, not a band that’s easily deterred they gave their all under trying circumstances. Had they stopped to sort out their issues it would have cut the set list which nobody wanted but them is the breaks at gigs like this.

Now if the Rain could fuck off for the rest of the evening I’d be very grateful, soaked to the skin I wasn’t going anywhere, thank you kindly.

Now, I saw The Cult play support to Alice Cooper and I have to admit it I found that particular performance a bit lackluster, a performance that seemed a little phoned in I believe is the term used. Maybe due to it being at the tail end of a huge North American tour where they played the same set night after night and ‘Sonic Temple’ heavy.

So, on that recent experience, I had dampened my expectations as I didn’t want to get carried away. I’ve seen The Cult over many years in several countries from America to Europe and a lot of shows from every tour, from the Marquee on Charing Cross Road to Wembley Arena or Fields at festivals. they’ve played a million places and rocked them all and to be fair they always pull me back in just when I think we’re done. I know they have it in their locker to dazzle as they’ve done so many times so the odd off night is alright.

The rain seems to have finished and the dark skies have drifted so it was time for The Cult and opening the set with the monster that is ‘Rise’ sort of set the tone for the next hour and a half. A crystal clear sound that was significantly louder than the other bands and the benefit of it going dark by the time they hit a wicked ‘King Contrary Man’ it was obvious to everyone inside the castle grounds that The Cult mean business and this set was so far from a phoned in tired set it seemed crazy that I could ever doubt them.

I also have to admit that one of my least favourite records by the band is ‘Sonic Temple’ I guess the early years were part of my impressionable youth and the likes of ‘Born Into This’ and ‘The Cult’ albums don’t get near enough airtime live or kudos from critics and fans alike. so seeing that ‘Sonic’ was kept to a minimum with the obvious big hitters in attendance I was delighted. The ‘Electric’ tracks sounded huge and it has to be said Astbury sounded better than he has live for decades, you’d possibly have to go back to the ‘Love’ era to hear him singing so well, and he seemed in a really happy place as he prowled the stage apron engaging with the crowd and sending out hugely positive vibes.

Whoever decided on the setlist should take a bow – it played into the very best of Billy Duffy who pulled all the shapes as the notes flew from his fretboard like cascading waterfalls ‘Aphrodisiac Jacket’ was a prowling beast bristling with energy and following ‘The Riff-a-rama of ‘The Witch’ this was turning into an epic night and showing why The Cult can still draw massive outdoor crowds.

With a new album in tow, they slid ‘Vendetta X’ and ‘Mirror’ in seamlessly. There was even time for the brilliant ‘Spiritwalker’ to ricochet off the castle walls before the home straight of the big hitters as the apt ‘Rain’ preceded ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ before leaving the stage for a well-deserved ovation.

For a thoroughly deserved encore of ‘Peace Dog’ the air guitarists in attendance tuned up and were pleased with the performance before finally setting the stage alight with a full tilt ‘Love Removal Machine’ and then they were gone. They’ve always been good to South Wales have the Cult from their debut show in Swansea all those years ago to this their biggest show on this epic performance in a Castle The Cult came, saw, and conquered, oh, and Rocked like fuck, Tonight the Cult left everyone in attendance in no doubt that they were the kings of this particular Castle and rightly so. What a line up, What a day, Fan-bloody-tastic!

Author: Dom Daley