April 4th, 2012, 10:25 pm · · posted by DAVID HALL, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Score another fantastic show for Santa Ana’s recently revamped Observatory – this time from Manhattan-based but Orange County-bred retro-rock duo Cults, whose original booking in the smaller Constellation Room got moved into the venue’s more spacious, 1,000-plus capacity main room to alleviate increased ticket demand.
Thank goodness fans were accommodated; the entire place was nearly filled up as Tuesday’s start time neared. For the band – already on a high because of an overwhelming turnout from friends and family (frontwoman Madeline Follins mentioned that even her grandmother was there) – a few hundred extra happy fans seemed to fortify the gig’s uplifting atmosphere exponentially.
“Remind me later to remind myself … this place is a helluva lot better than L.A.,” said founding guitarist/ keyboardist Brian Oblivion, taking care to mention that his family had a long legacy in this part of O.C.
Yet even without all those genuinely heartfelt and touching asides, the performance was a triumph.The crowd was treated to a best-of set list: the acclaimed psychedelic power-pop single “Abducted” as a kickoff, solid takes on non-album tracks “The Curse” and “Slow Song” – both beautifully echoing the vocal style and basic beat structure of so many Supremes staples – plus a hypnotizing, rarely played cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows.”
Certainly, much of Cults’ sound on their debut (and sole) self-titled record, released almost a year ago, owes much to Motown digs; the feel of “You Know What I Mean” and “Never Saw the Point” pretty much spell it out. Yet equally prominent in this live setting – particularly given the outfit’s expanded, five-piece touring setup – were shades of MGMT-esque FX and MPC-driven beats that injected many tunes’ underlying lullaby-like chimes with hard-hitting dance grooves (see “Go Outside” and “Oh My God”).
Before closing on those two sweeping compositions, Oblivion made sure to re-emphasize his pleasure playing for this audience: “I really wasn’t kidding when I said this is better than L.A.” (The group played two weeks ago at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood as well as the Glass House in Pomona.)
The way things are panning out lately, with myriad killer shows at the Observatory (and more on the way) enabling thousands of local concert-goers to see great sets from Coachella-caliber bands without having to brave the 101, I have a feeling – despite Cults’ obvious hometown bias – that Oblivion will be just one of many headliners voicing similar sentiments in coming months.
Setlist: Cults at the Observatory, Santa Ana, April 3, 2012
Intro / Abducted / The Curse / Slow Song / Most Wanted / You Know What I Mean / Bumper / Never Saw the Point / Rave On / Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen cover) / Walk at Night / Go Outside / Oh My God
Photo also by David Hall, for the Orange County Register.