Eclectic and bold, Cage the Elephant and Beck took to the outdoor stage at Ak-Chin Pavilion on July 21 to face a blistering triple digit heat, strip off some clothes and put on a performance that harkened back to festival season.
Despite his wiry frame, Cage the Elephant’s lead singer Matt Schultz is a larger than life performer. The band began the show with “Cry Baby” as the singer’s body contorts and bends in a theatrical, interpretive dance across the stage and into the crowd. Schultz used numerous props such as a fan and a mask which he declared he made himself and destroyed later on in the set. His theatrical character worked in his favor as the audience went wild for his boneless style of dancing.
Although Schultz rarely spoke to the audience he did seem to mention how hot it was in Arizona numerous times, which he proved by removing everything but his boxer briefs and socks by the end of the evening.
It took a couple of songs for Cage the Elephant to really get into a groove during their set. Schultz’s vocals were a little too lost in the moment a couple of times and his pronunciation was unclear and muffled. The vocals were only momentarily sacrificed while he climbed on speakers, swung from scaffolding or did a headstand. The band gained more momentum when they played “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and followed it with a handful of other hits that kept the crowd singing along.
The staging was quite simple with just a staircase in the center. The lighting was monochromatic cut with an excessive amount of fog. Fire pyrotechnics made an incredibly brief appearance. A complicated set was unnecessary as most of the musicians in Cage the Elephant seemed incredibly passionate about their performance. Their energy and movements were big and bold.
It is very clear that the band has performed at numerous festivals in front of thousands of people. Their energy never wavered. Guitarist Brad Shultz even made an appearance in the audience a couple times. This was an impressive feat as fans swarmed the musician while he played the guitar.
The drummer for the evening was not the band’s usual drummer Jared Champion. Instead, Kyle Davis filled in. The audience would never have known Davis wasn’t a band regular if it hadn’t been announced. Davis’s performance was stellar. His giant grin only left his face when he was screaming the lyrics along to the music. His showmanship and charisma paralleled his talent. Davis played incredibly.
The band ended their set with “Teeth” and the musicians abruptly left the stage while Matt Schultz was shoulders deep in a crowd of swarming fans. The vocalist balanced on gates by the tech booth, twisted his body like a yogi and took pictures with fans long after Cage the Elephant’s set was finished.
Beck was a much more polished performer than Cage the Elephant. From his sleek blazer to the musicians playing atop mirrored platforms, Beck clearly had a particular vision and mood for his performance. Bright graphics flickered on the screen in the background and lighting was more focused with lasers and multiple colors.
He began the set with one of his most popular songs “Loser.” The crowd screamed the song along with him. He quickly traded his blazer in for his trademark wide brimmed hat. “Up All Night” was a memorable song from the performer’s set. This added some energy to the waning crowd. He played other hits such as “The New Pollution” and “Que Ondo Guero.” Despite the visual interest of the performer and upbeat tracks, he did start to lose audience members around 10:30 pm.
Beck eventually lost such a good amount of the crowd that he invited everyone back in the lawn seating to come up to the front section. This breathed more life into the crowd. Although the new wave of fans created a stampede of chaos. Beck played “Where It’s At” and began to introduce bandmates as they played snippets of classic tunes. Matt Schultz of Cage the Elephant then joined Beck back onstage for their song “Night Running” and completed the night with a reprise of “Where It’s At.”
The overall performance was reminiscent of a small festival. The performers were equally energetic with different approaches to motivating the crowd. Although their stylistic choices contrasted, the bands were complementary for an exciting night of alternative rock. The Night Running Tour will continue across the country through the summer.
(Photo: Al Powers for Park Theater at Park MGM)