Almost 25 years after their formation, the Cult laid down a solid performance of no-nonsense hard rock at the Pageant. With support from Action Action, the Cliks, and the Knives, the British rockers performed a solid set that drew from their classic hits, as well as material for their latest release, Born Into This.
Without a doubt, the stars of the performance were frontman Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy, who dominated the stage with big grins and big performances. The pair shared the most time in the spotlight, literally, and genuinely seemed to be enjoying their stage time on this tour.
The Cult's performance was distinguished by the happy combination of great lighting and a veteran group that knows how to hit all the rock star moves.
The band played with their speaker monitors positioned about a meter back from the front of the stage, which pushed them farther back from the crowd than many acts that come through the Pageant.
While I was initially concerned about the impact this might have on the energy of the set, the band delivered on the rock and the distance didn't have much of an effect on the images.
During a quick image search of the band's recent live shots, I was also wondering whether Astbury would be sporting his trademark headband or other accouterments, but a pair of shades was the extent of the adornment.
Overall, the shoot was a snap. Between the great poses struck by the band and the abundant lighting, the set was fun and lacking in any supreme technical challenges.
Overall, the lighting for the first three songs was a simple scheme that utilized white light from the front in contrast with a variety of high backlighting.
A spotlight alternated between Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy, providing a very welcome boost to the house lights, which seemed to be on full blast from the front in a marked departure from their normal dimmed state.
The backlighting consisted of a cycling treatment of yellow, magenta, cyan, and white light, primarily with the use of one color at a time.
I shot with the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 for the majority of the time, the range of which was quite good despite the band's increased distance from the front of the stage.
I can imagine that the lens section from shows at the Pageant may be getting a bit monotonous, as the midrange zoom secures a lot of camera-time at this venue. Still, I find the lens so well suited to concert photography that it's often my first choice for these sorts of gigs.
Supplementing the 17-55 was the Nikon 85mm f/1.4, the range of which was highly useful for picking up tighter shots of lead singer Astbury, as well as the requisite drummer shot for John Tempesta.
While the absolute speed of the prime was not necessary, thanks the lighting, its fast-focusing, focal length, and excellent optical performance were all welcome at this show.
In a rare treat, I shot at ISO 1000 at f/2.8 and 1/160 throughout much of the set, broadening to ISO 800 and ISO 1250 as the lighting required. Though the Pageant is well lit for headliners most of the time, the exposure for the Cult's set was unusually comfortable.
A good number of the images were shot at a luxurious 1/200 second as well. At the low end, I dipped to 1/100 at f/2.8 and ISO 1250 for a shot of guitarist Duffy when he got a leg up on one of the monitors during a lull in the lighting.
Shutter speeds topped out at 1/250 at f/2.2 and ISO 800 when using the Nikon 85mm f/1.4.
Even without being familiar with the Cult's music, their set at the Pageant was a blast to shoot, in no small part thanks to the band's charisma.
One of the most refreshing aspects of the gig was to photograph such veteran rockers without shooting up their noses from below a 10-foot stage. Were that the case, the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 would have been a must, so shooting this intimate gig with the more personable 17-55mm and 85mm Nikkors was a treat.
For the full image set from the Cult's performance, you can hit the Flick gallery: