A sign that hung on the entrance to The Vogue for weeks said, “Cage The Elephant is sold-out. Really- you can’t get tickets.” On Friday night at 10 p.m., it definitely felt like a sold-out show, too. There was no chance of finding a decent vantage point in the balcony and the floor was shoulder-to-shoulder all the way past the lower level bar. As soon as Cage The Elephant took stage and began to play, the pit in front of the stage lost all composure.
Cage’s wild frontman, Matt Shultz, confessed during the show a love for “this crowd surfing stuff," and just 30 minutes in, his crowd-walking habits had already been on display three times during the first four songs. Not long after, the audience found its balance — rambunctious concertgoers voyaged to the front while stationary viewers drifted towards the back. It was amusing to watch people angered over the intrusion of their personal bubble of space, especially the couple behind me who persistently jabbed their elbows in my back. Yelling at people to quit moshing during Cage the Elephant is like putting a bowl of food in front of a starved puppy and then telling him not to eat; it’s going to happen and you can’t stop it. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!
The band's repertoire was split evenly between new and old material, alternating between songs from Cage’s debut album and fresh tracks from Thank You Happy Birthday. Interestingly, the crowd was just as involved during songs from the new album as during older tunes. To me, this signaled true fan dedication rather than a case of the “I heard their single on the radio and now I’m their biggest fan” syndrome. The band practiced good crowd control, too; extra-rowdy songs were frequently followed up by something slower and calmer, even lullaby-esque at times.
During one particularly striking song (ironically titled “Indy Kidz," from Thank You Happy Birthday), the lights cast an eerie red shadow across the stage and the band erupted in a thumping, Dick Dale-like, surf-guitar-meets-punk-rock number. Shultz flapped his arms in a haphazard swimming motion and white strobe lights flickered relentlessly. In a total state of pandemonium, a man with a hardy build was tossed into the air by his buddies and sent sailing across the sea of raging bodies. During an interlude, the song slowed, its mood shifting from screaming chaos to a mysterious daze of complacency. In total Jim Morrison fashion, mumbles and moans spilled from Shultz’s mouth before he dropped his fatigued body into the crowd, repeatedly babbling “I want to be just… like… you…”
Cage saved “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” until the end of the show, playing it just before closer “Shake Me Down.” A few bars in, Shultz stopped the song and addressed The Vogue security staff who were disciplining particularly disorderly audience members. “Stop fuckin’ with our audience!” he yelled. “I appreciate what you’re doing, but they’re okay.” The crowd went wild with approval.
During a three-song encore that included a rousing cover of the Talking Heads classic “Psycho Killer," Shultz dove into the crowd from atop the towering speakers stage right, just as he did when the band opened for Silversun Pickups in 2009. This time though, the audience knew what to do and immediately compressed with arms stretched high to the sky. Seconds later Shultz was on top of those arms, climbing across bodies as he headed towards the back of the floor. Fans from the balcony leaned over and reached for Shultz while those on the floor lifted him towards the ceiling. Despite their earlier disagreeable encounter, Vogue security safely escorted Shultz back to the stage.
Offering closure to the untamed and unruly show, Shultz made multiple attempts to finish the night with a solo acoustic version of “Right Before My Eyes,” but ultimately said “fuck it” and put his guitar down to instead perform a cappella. Except that it wasn’t really a cappella, since the entire room sang every word with him.
Watch the staggering 13-minute finale below.