The prospect of effectively opening for Metallica is undoubtedly intimidating — but Cage the Elephant was well up to the challenge.
The modus operandi of lead singer Matt Shultz has seemingly always been to take whatever relevant dials might exist and crank them to 11. As the band roared to the stage Saturday afternoon, he was immediately running laps on the raised platform that extended out around 100 feet into the audience. Clad in tight pants, an O-ring choker and a sparkly jacket (promptly removed), Shultz’s massive persona lept, kneeled and screamed its way through the band’s set.
In between songs, Shultz pontificated on the importance of love, community and understanding — perhaps in reference to the violence that had erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, the previous night and extended into Saturday, perhaps not.
Fans chanted and danced along to the band’s radio hits like “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked,” “Cigarette Daydreams” and “Come a Little Closer” (the band’s first breakout single from Melophobia in 2013). Seeing Cage the Elephant live is almost always worth the time, as all three of these songs are relatively tame on album and explode with ferocity under the guidance of Shultz’s intense stage presence.
True to character, he forwent the typical climb down from the stage to stand on the barrier with the audience. Instead, he lept full-force and spread eagle over the considerable gap and into the crowd. Soon he was lifted up, standing with his ankles supported by numerous hands. Despite the precariousness of the position, his full-body dance moves were barely affected, leading to an inevitable fall and subsequent second bout of crowd surfing.
Not many bands have the charisma to fill a stage as large as Land’s End; Matt Shultz has enough all by himself, which perhaps is why the rest of Cage the Elephant receded so far into the background during the set. Guitarists Brad Shultz and Nick Bockrath did make several trips out onto the catwalk, and Brad Shultz spent some time playing down within the crowd, albeit in the VIP section. But ultimately the catwalk placed the band’s lead vocalist a hundred feet in front of his bandmates, who were left hidden in the shade of the main stage. It was a unique problem not faced by Sunday’s bands (for which the catwalk had been removed), but it highlights a unique disparity in energy between the members of Cage the Elephant.
That said, the set was likely a highlight for many of those in the audience, and Shultz deserves immense credit for giving his all to the performance — a true inhibitor of the rock mentality that even Metallica, following them, didn’t match (though, fairly, James Hetfield of Metallica is a bit old to be leaping into the crowd).
It’s unclear whether Cage the Elephant’s insatiable energy will recede over the years, but since the band’s inception in 2006, its members have shown no signs of slowing down.