It’s easy to recognize a live show by Cage the Elephant, not particularly because of the music or the look of the band, but because of lead vocalist Matt Shultz’s dancing. Shultz likes to crouch to about half of his standing size, bending his knees while keeping his top-half entirely parallel to the ground. He bangs his head, shaking his floppy hair into his lowered face, jumping and stamping his feet simultaneously, and coordinating all of those movements with a sort of slow-motion running form in his arms.
He manages to sing in this position too, miraculously clearly and with the nonsensical ability to project his voice into the crowd while hunched in such a way. The whole thing is reminiscent of every classic rock band to come before: the uncanny dancing, the vocals that escalate into mild screams.
Even the band’s clothes pay tribute to the rock greats from decades past. Shultz is dressed in culottes that reach his ankle and flare just a bit, a matching jacket with a plain t-shirt underneath, and white Ked-like sneakers to complete the look. Brad Shultz is in a vintage pink bomber jacket with “The Police” headlining the back. Daniel Tichenor dangles a cigarette from his mouth.
Their look matches their genre of music: good old-fashioned rock. The third day of Boston Calling saw mostly hard rock and punk rock with bands like PUP and headliner Tool, but Cage the Elephant provided a nice middle-ground for the festival’s more alternative fans. The set list featured the band’s most well-known hits such as “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” but balanced with tracks from its most recent release such as “Trouble” and “Cold Cold Cold.”
The band made the most of its relatively short, hour-long set by playing almost all the way through. Transitions were short, and the end of one song led almost directly into the beginning of the next one. Shultz would hold his ending pose of one song through to the start of the following, making for efficient transitions that put emphasis on the music itself.
Those transitions left little time for the band to interact with the crowd, but made up for that during the songs. Shultz spent as much time onstage as in the audience, running through the gated paths or hopping between speakers, holding the mic out to the crowd, cuing them to sing a lyric.
When Shultz does pause for talking, it’s entirely unscripted. His uncontrolled dancing during “Cry Baby” led him to trip and fall to his knees bringing the microphone with him. He stayed there to sing the rest of the chorus, smiling and sticking his tongue out at the crowd. When he was back on his feet at the end of the song, he laughed, “It’s all part of the show, folks.”
When a rogue backstage fan decided to sprint from the wings and jump off the front of the stage—attempting to land in the arms of the audience—Shultz acknowledged the surprise runner.
“That was painful to watch. I’ve never looked away like that at a show before,” he said. “You should get your kidney checked out. Or your bladder. You definitely pissed your pants.”
The finale of the set included Shultz running offstage and returning shirtless and barefoot. He bounced around from stage, to speaker, to crowd, where he urged fans to crowd together so he could stand up literally in the audience.
The concluding notes of the last song flowed into a rendition of “Ole, Ole, Ole,” and while the crowd chanted, Shultz ran offstage again, ran back with his shirt and shoes in hand, and threw each item into his fans’ waiting hands, before he ran away with the last “Ole.”
Featured Image By Josh Mentzer / Heights Staff