Two years ago, a small band out of Kentucky named Cage the Elephant came out big with their radio-ready first single, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” That song catapulted them into the spotlight, giving them a lot of radio play and song plugs (like the beginning of the excellent Borderlands). Now, two albums into their career – their 2010 self-titled debut and 2011’s Thank You, Happy Birthday – they decided to put out a live album, taking the best songs from both of the aforementioned albums and putting them into one epic show.
As a side note, I have always wanted to see this band live. Their sound, musicianship, and stage antics (like stage diving off of speakers, or walking on the hands of their fans) are what make Cage the Elephant…well…THEM. And although a normally risky thing to do with only two albums deep in their career, I cannot applaud CTE enough for doing such a kickass job.
Their live CD consists of their entire 19 song set list, including their big singles like “Shake Me Out,” and “In One Ear.” As much as those songs are good, the other, lesser known tracks to a casual fan make the show truly great. “Japanese Buffalo” and “Indy Kidz” in particular show off their utter rawness as a band, even without watching the DVD of the show. CTE also did a rather awesome rendition of Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer” to help close out the show, which is a nice little cap to end such a massive show.
There is a couple of songs that they didn’t do, including “James Brown,” “Free Love,” and “Right Before My Eyes.” However, even with them excluded in the show, the set list was incredibly solid (just like their albums). I sat down to listen to it, and couldn’t conceive how much energy frontman Matt Shultz has. For almost 80 minutes, runs, jumps, and yells, and never really seems tired.
Which leads me to this point, the real highlight of the live show IS the show itself. If you bought the album on iTunes, then you’re missing out on an epic show. Frontman Matt Shultz is what makes this show so amazing. His raw style of singing, combined with his stage antics (including jumping into the crowd during the first song, and his movements and shakes throughout) makes for an unmistakably awesome live event. I’d even go as far as to call him the new Iggy Pop, but that’s just me. They don’t need big pyrotechnics, or even playing to the crowd. It was just Cage the Elephant doing what they obviously love.
For any CTE fan, this is a must. They might not play their two albums in their entirety, but it really doesn’t matter. This is one of the best live albums I have listened to in quite some time, made better by watching the band wail their hearts out on each song. I’ll go on the record that Cage the Elephant is the present and the future of where rock will be. In five years, I would love for them to come out with another live album like this; it’d be a treat to hear them play these just one more time.
What an excellent way to start off the new year.
Final Grade: A
Go Download: The Live Show, “Psycho Killer”