On what could have been a mundane Tuesday night, indie rock band Cage the Elephant decided to transform the slow energy of the Shoreline Amphitheatre into an unforgettable adrenaline rush. The group made an abrupt entrance during its concert in Mountain View, opening with its soft rock song “Cry Baby.”
Lead singer Matt Shultz paraded around with a fedora in hand and turned to face an audience ready to dance for several hours straight. Wearing a red shirt, matching red shorts, a surgery mask, kneepads and chunky headphones, Shultz gave the audience a taste of what it was in for — a carefree night filled with chaotic energy.
Without a doubt, Shultz stole the show. Although his older brother Brad Shultz brought enthusiasm and skill to his guitar strumming, Matt’s own dazed little world had everyone’s eyes locked on him. He jolted, spazzed and headbanged, seeming to be both engaged and disengaged with his whereabouts. His ever-changing outfit and slow stripping contrasted sharply with his brother’s plain black suit. Despite their different personas, the brothers didn’t forget to interact with one another whenever Matt passionately grabbed Brad’s face.
The band stunned the audience by releasing bright flames into the smoky air during its performance of “Broken Boy.” The intensity of the visuals paired well with the drawn-out lyrics, which ask, “Broken boy, how does it feel?” A high-pitched guitar, similar in sound to a fire engine, wailed loudly in the background as Matt threw his mask onto the floor and flailed his limbs to his heart’s content. He stumbled around the stage aimlessly, triumphantly held his microphone stand in hand and took off his shoes, marking his first strip of the night.
When asked about the energy of the crowd, one attendee said she felt an “energetic and vibrant mood.” The highlight of the show for her was “Matt’s enthusiasm and ability to hype the audience up.” Her low point, however, was that “the other musicians didn’t show nearly as much enthusiasm as Matt. Some even seemed bored.”
To say that Matt was an inclusive performer would be an understatement. Having to elongate one’s neck to identify the singer among a sea of bouncing heads became routine for the audience. As Matt ran into different sections of the crowd, he danced one-on-one with the eager fans and practically serenaded people individually; during “Too Late To Say Goodbye,” he transitioned from a low, gruff tone to an airy one. The energetic singer closely resembled Gollum as he pulled a skintight, skin-colored hood over his head and crouched down like a wild animal.
One of the loudest rounds of applause erupted as the band’s popular hit “Trouble,” a song about leaning on love in order to get through life’s troubles, came to a close. Matt placed a white rose into his mouth and hugged it close to his chest in a moment that was tender to both him and the audience.
“Punchin’ Bag” was introduced to the audience as the band brought all the intensity it could, transitioning from slow instrumentals to a quick, rhythmic pulse of drumming and low guitar strumming. The anger in Matt’s voice, along with his kicking and punching, was fitting for the song about an abusive relationship.
One of the warmest moments of the concert was during the soft song “Telescope.” A spotlight illuminated Matt as he made his way through a star-struck crowd. His angelic voice lingered in the air as he sang the poetic lyrics about time feeling like “a leaf in the wind,” slipping right through his fingertips.
“Cigarette Daydreams,” one of the group’s most popular songs, revealed the heavier feelings the band has poured out into its lyrics. Matt’s voice shook as he sang about a lover who “gathered up (their) things and slipped away.” He fell to his knees slowly as he delicately sang the melancholy lyrics of finding oneself after parting with a lover. In his face and his movement, Matt looked apart of the song’s reminiscent story. The emotional delivery of the live performance had more of an impact than in the album recording.
It was clear that Matt wanted everyone to feel unified with one another, and even stated that “it may seem weird, but I’m just here to give you all freedom.” His ultimate goal, it seemed, was to give people an emotional escape through music, dancing and screaming out lyrics for the one night they all had together.
Contact Alison Church at [email protected].