Cage the Elephant began their banner 2015 by celebrating a Grammy nomination. On Sunday night at the El Rey Theatre, they showed fans that the future looks bright for the alt-rock five-piece as they performed some songs from their upcoming album Tell Me I’m Pretty — due out December 18 and produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach – as well as favorites from the past.
The gig was quite an underplay and it was sold-out pretty much immediately. This band has risen to becoming one of the top alternative rock acts in the States, thanks in large part to the success of their 2013 album Melophobia. Despite the cold weather outside, you could feel the heat inside the lovely El Rey as people were packed in like sardines.
Lead singer Matt Shultz has a certain Mick Jagger quality to him – though with some punk flair thrown in. It’s also crazy to realize just how many hits this band has churned out since first forming in 2006.
Throwback favorites like “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” from their self-titled debut felt as fresh as the new material, thanks in large part to the amount of energy the band puts into every performance. They thrash around on stage, with guitarist Brad Shultz screaming along to the choruses despite not having a microphone.
“Shake Me Down” off their second album received a similarly vigorous reaction from the crowd. But it was the songs off Melophobia that the crowd got most into. “Take It Or Leave It” and the slow-tempo “Cigarette Daydreams” show just how much the band has grown over the last few years and the crowd knew every word.
What was interesting was how everyone knew all the words to the news songs from the upcoming album. “Mess Around” was received as though it was an old classic.
When some technical difficulties brought a halt to the show for a second, singer Shultz told the crowd he was just going to surf across their hands until it got fixed. He did just that, teasing into the mic, “Hey, don’t touch me there,” before surfing back to the stage for the start of the next song.
After exiting the stage, the band returned for an encore that featured “Come a Little Closer.” Shultz allowed the crowd to sing the entire bridge before exploding into the song’s final chorus.
With the album due out in a matter of days, 2016 promises to be a massive year for the band. Can they rise to arena-headliners? Time will tell. But they surely will be higher up the festival bills they play than they were at Coachella 2014, when they were slotted a pretty early afternoon set time.
Shaun White’s band Bad Things opened up the show. White has proven he’s no gimmick and their brand of electro-rock is pretty entertaining.
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Photography: Danielle Gornbein