It's no surprise to learn that Bowling Green, Ken. band Cage the Elephant has already made a name for itself in the UK. After all, the kind of straight-up rock ‘n' roll that the band plays sounds like it could've come from any time during the last 35 years—in other words you'd probably guess Detroit ‘round the turn of the century—and never fails to go down a storm across the pond. Press blurb tells me that the group's recent SXSW performance made more than a couple of industry ripples Stateside, though, so perhaps the US is primed to catch-up; and from the early turnout tonight, I wouldn't doubt it. Opening for the Gaslight Anthem—Springsteen-worshipping New Jerseyans on the cusp of reeeeeeeeally big things—this show was always going to sell out. Even so, the fact Berbati's is almost full by the time Cage the Elephant kick off their PDX debut bright ‘n' early at 8 pm suggests that a decent few Yankee folk are indeed aware that there's more than one fast-rising band on this bill.
On record the first thing you notice is just how incredibly close to the White Stripes garage-rock revival blueprint the band flies, with the vocals in particular coming across a good bit like Jack White, so it's a relief when the four-piece hits the stage to see that singer Matt Shultz presents a much more convincing prospect in person. He sasses it up like Jagger, all gurning red face and bouncing bleach-blond mop, commanding attention as he dominates the stage like an over-sugared 16-year-old Kurt Cobain doing the funky gibbon. Actually, complete with a lanky bassist with a face submerged in hair, there's something particularly grungy and adolescent about CTE's stage presence that both lets on to their youthful average age of 20 and leaves you a tad surprised that they clearly must've wanted to listen to their dads' LPs.
Fortunately the music, though generic, is fully realized, and they've got the hooks to back up the swagger. Hyper-catchy single “In One Ear” will likely be stuck in heads the rest of the week even after just one listen, and by the time the band rounds out their set with the fiery “Saber-Toothed Tiger” (about, umm, a saber-toothed tiger, we're helpfully informed) Shultz is screaming from among the masses on the floor and the crowd—a surreal mix of beards and frat boys—is noticeably won over. Yup, won't be too surprising if it's not just the Gaslight Anthem playing a bigger spot next time around.
Cage the ElephantSpace
Photo used courtesy of Cage The Elephant