Cage the Elephant - Orpheum Theater Madison WI June 2016 - photo by Alexa Williams
Returning nearly one year to the day, Cage the Elephant once again stormed Madison’s Orpheum Theater, packing a powerful new album along with a lightning-sharp line-up comprised of Chicago’s Twin Peaks and Portland’s Portugal. the Man. Originally slated for the Alliant Center, the downgrade in venue size only made the sold-out evening more the compact powder-keg of explosive commotion; capping one of first really hot days of the summer with one of this year’s hottest nights for monumental rock.
Big, loud bands practiced in the art of fusing electric blues, crunchy funk and jammy psychedelia into pro-active party-jams, the killer triple bill stoked technically proficient expedition of soulful out-of-control rock ‘n roll. Portugal, the smallest and least animated of the three, upped the ante with an energetic emcee assigned to pumping up the already-rabid crowd who also provided a valuable service grabbing exclusive on-stage video for a few lucky stage-huggers. The five-piece Twin Peaks shaked and quaked backed by two guitarists, three lead vocalists plus keyboards, bass and drums that kept them on a runaway train for their entire thirty minutes set. While headliners Cage, expanded their super-tight quartet with two additional players to upgrade their heavy sound into rafter-wrecking proportions.
A tight-knit nucleus of admirers converged early to catch Twin Peaks’ well-tended engine mow over a solid concoction of sweat-soaked and focused indie-rock romps. By the end of the Windy City band’s blustery set, the Orpheum’s main floor was a dense hive backed up to the sound board ready for Portugal’s churning journey. The rainbow-rockers’ galactic crashes and cosmic gospel united the audience in a communal trance that sky-rocketed in the last third of their hour-long set after a firing shot of the Stones’, “Gimme Shelter,” erupted into face-melting renditions of, “All The Light,” and, “The Home;” throwing in a roaring, “She’s So Heavy,” portion of The Beatles’, “I Want You,” before closing with a thundering, “Purple, Yellow Red and Blue.” A well-deserved breather gave people time to recover from Portugal’s feverish finish and to prepare for the evening’s main event. Fittingly, the core members of Cage slowly strolled out one at a time to ever increasing applause until lead singer Matt Schultz made his entrance, announcing, “Last time was memorable, let’s one up that shit.” Breaking into a bombastic, “Cry Baby,” from their recent, “Tell Me I’m Pretty,” Matt launched himself into the crowd,-surfing over a sea of appreciative supporters. Aided by fog-machines, strobe-lights and multi-colored lasers, the band quickly made good on their ballsy promise.
Informing the theater they were heading home for a short break after their Madison show, Cage the Elephant’s set list took on an sympathetic layer of homesickness. The group’s desolate themes telegraphed in jack-hammered ambitions appeared somewhat paradoxical; their potent odes to isolated heartbreak packaged in pro-active catalysts that bonded fans in pathological solidarity. As the crowd sang along to, “Back Against the Wall,” with full-throttled honesty, “..you got me where you want me again, and I can’t turn away,” the lyric’s unrequited insights met a tidal wave of compassion. The song continues, “I’m hangin’ by a thread and I’m feelin’ like a fool.” Closing the night with a solid three song encore and another crowd-surfing turn, the Schultz brothers would be fools to think anyone would leave them hanging on anything but hopes for another song.