ACL Fest: Cage The Elephant’s ballistic rock proves the kids are all right

For a music fan of a certain age, finding live music experiences that get anywhere near the magic of early concert memories can be like chasing a high—one that always seems to get a little farther out of reach. It gets harder to find that spark after countless OK shows and good-enough bands. Early Saturday evening, as I bobbed in an anxiety-inducingly large sea of people watching ballistic blues rockers Cage The Elephant, I saw the happy faces of young fans who are going to have a pretty excellent early live music memory.

Matthew Shultz of Cage the Elephant performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park Saturday October 1, 2016.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Matthew Shultz of Cage the Elephant performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park Saturday October 1, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The eclectic and (seemingly endlessly) energetic rockers put on the kind of a show that warrants a near-headliner slot, a set packed with playful rock star posturing, stage diving, guitarist face-offs, bright lights, and gold and glittery electric guitars.

Jumping off the stage within seconds of opener “Cry Baby,” frontman Matt Shultz gave photographers and those brave, strong-bladdered, claustrophobic-resistant souls pinned in against the stage’s front perimeter quite a show (and I assume some highly shareable/likable pics). Even half back to the nose-bleed section of the massive Honda Stage’s “chair zone” you could feel the band’s intensity rippling through the crowd, hands up and mouths open screaming.

The mile-a-minute Shultz—a man I suspect one should never compete with in any kind of step goal or Fitbit challenge—sustained the energy throughout the set. With his golden hair whipping back and forth and chrome-wrapped microphone tucked into the front of his waistband, he shed his shirt and hand squeegeed sweat from his chest onto the crowd for fuzzy, frenetic closer “Teeth.”

Cage The Elephant’s retro rock skews harder live than on album, but it still falls into that impossible-to-hate-by-most sweet spot that other well-oiled festival veterans and anthem-churning-out operations like Cage the Elephant manage so well. It made for a rowdy, fun rock ‘n’ roll concert. Those rosy-cheeked teenagers screaming their hearts out could do a lot worse.

 


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