Cage the Elephant unloads raw energy on San Francisco

Cage The Elephant — formed in 2006 out of Bowling Green, Kentucky — has carved out a unique niche in rock music with their eclectic blend of garage rock, punk, and blues influences. Flames, flashing LEDs, and lasers were in full force throughout their energetic set at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.

English singer Bakar helped open the evening, with a performance that showed off his genre-bending sound, blending chill hip hop and R&B. His vocals were captivating and distinct as he started his set on a riser, only showing his silhouette.

As for Cage the Elephant, their opening couldn’t have been more powerful.

Beginning with “Broken Boy”, flames spouted immediately from six pyro devices lined across the front of the stage. Frontman Matt Shultz led the charge staying in a constant whirlwind of motion as bandmates Brad Shultz, Daniel Tichenor, Jared Champion, Nick Bockrath, and Matthan Minster delivered mesmerizing instrumentation in stride.

The set pace was perfectly aligned with the band’s energy. Aside from when lead guitarist Brad Shultz leaned over the barricade into the audience, crowd interaction was kept to a minimum. There was never a clear start and stop to each song; the band created smooth interlude transitions, so there was never a moment that wasn’t filled with music.

Throughout their 21-song display, Cage covered ground across all their albums: Social Cues, Melophobia, Tell Me I’m Pretty, and their latest release, Neon Pill. Production packed a punch with a mixture of pulsing and flashing lights and had the room saturated in shades of blue and bright reds. And Matt Shultz’s stage presence was one-of-a-kind, singing directly to attendees at the barricade, leaping up onto monitors, and showing off serious air in his jumps.

“Good Time” was played early on in the set, with the title track and “Rainbow” to follow off the new album.

All three songs were met with the full crowd singing along and waving their arms. Much of the set was focused on prior releases from 2011 to 2019, with refreshed riffs on songs like “Telescope”, “Mess Around”, “Spiderhead”, and fan-favorite “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked.”

“I’m blessed to be with you all tonight,” Matt Shultz said before leading into “Trouble” off their GRAMMY-winning album, Tell Me I’m Pretty. It was no doubt that everyone in attendance agreed. Cage the Elephant ended the night with a three song encore: “Shake Me Down”, “Cigarette Daydreams” (where fans nearly overpowered Shultz’s vocals), and grand finale, “Come A Little Closer”. The last was met with plenty of pyrotechnics, mirroring the start of the show. What a great night!

Photography by Sabrina Poei

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