This Cage the Elephant article was written by Shawni Dunne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard. Header photo by stantography.
The rain lashes at the pavement in Wakefield, where a small group of t-shirted teenagers huddle against the wall, chatting excitedly. From the comfort of the cafe bar, the other gig-goers gaze out into the night, sipping their ales and enjoying the relaxed vibes at Unity Works.
Later that night, the troop of teenagers and the cafe bar clientele pile up the stairs into the concert hall where, behind the stage, Cage the Elephant are warming up for tonight’s gig. Two years ago, a major refurbishment project saw the desolate, abandoned Unity Hall transformed once again into a performance space. In the late 70s/early 80s the venue attracted a wealth of talent from many genres of music and often provided a stage for many up-and-coming bands. The Pretenders played their first ever gig here, and the venue has also played host to Iron Maiden, Human League and Boomtown Rats. Since its refurb, Unity Works has welcomed Wakefield heroes The Cribs, along with performances by The Damned, Embrace and British Sea Power.
With a standing capacity of 750 along with a balcony seating up to 60 people, Unity Works is an intimate venue, whilst also providing all the ambiance and exhilaration of a much larger venue. There’s certainly an excited buzz about the hall tonight as Kentucky-based rock group Cage the Elephant burst onto the stage with the opening hit ‘Cry Baby’ from their new album, ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’.
Lead singer Matt Shultz’s energy and enthusiasm is insatiable; he dances about the stage and jumps in amongst the crowd on several occasions, much to his fans’ delight. Looking sleek, in a black suit jacket and white pumps, Shultz leads the band through hits from previous albums such as ‘Spiderhead’ and ‘Aberdeen’ while the fan-favourite ‘Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked’ harks back to a time of experimentation in Cage the Elephant’s morphing rock style. The hit is just as impressive live, as expected, and the crowd sings the words back to him at the top of their voices, the floor trembling as they jump.
The band plays almost all of the tracks from their new album ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. The album marks a new chapter in Cage the Elephant’s musical journey as they venture more clearly into blues rock. As well as capturing the band’s usual light-hearted energy, the album also focuses on serious issues such as domestic abuse in ‘Punchin’ Bag’ and potential abduction in ‘Sweetie Little Jean’.
As the band launch into ‘Mess Around’, the first single from ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty,’ the crowd begin to chant. It is clear to see that Cage the Elephant are passionate, natural performers. The impressive riffs echo around the humid hall and the drum beats make the floor buzz beneath the feet of the hundreds of revellers.
Welcomed back by chants of “Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire,” the band return unfazed for a three-song encore. It includes a beautifully written acoustic cut ‘Cigarette Daydreams’ which accentuates Shultz‘s impressive live vocal range. Popular hit ‘Shake Me Down’ merges into the upbeat ‘Sabertooth Tiger,’ during which Shultz strips off his shirt and shoes and plunges into the crowd, who carry him as he surfs across the room before being cast back onto the stage
Modest and dry-humoured as ever, Cage the Elephant end the gig by thanking support band Chrome Pony and urging fans to buy the support act’s merchandise rather than their own “shit”. All in all, Cage the Elephant gave an invigorating and well-polished performance that left everyone in the room with a smile on their faces.