Concert Review: Cage the Elephant

Photo by Senny Farhy

Photo by Senny Farhy

Senny Farhy

On September 27th at roughly 6:30 pm, I arrived at Riverfront Park in Harrisburg. Why did I travel an hour and a half to the state capital? Cage the Elephant was in town. An alternative/indie rock band from Bowling Green, Kentucky, Cage the Elephant features brothers Matt (lead singer) and Brad Shultz (lead guitarist) along with Jared Tichenor, Nick Brockrath, Jared Champion, Matthan Minster, and Lincoln Parish. 

Having been deprived of live music for over a year and a half, I was eager to see my favorite band perform live. In order to secure the best spot possible, fellow Cage fanatic, Trisha Priyadarshi, and I arrived well over an hour and a half before the band took the stage. From the second we stepped out of my mother’s Toyota Highlander and onto the sidewalk of Riverfront Park, there was evident excitement in the air. After our smooth and quick entry, Trisha and I jogged across the park to the front of the stage, where a small crowd had already begun to form. Nonetheless, the spots we secured were far closer than either of us had ever dreamt. Before the music began, we of course had to buy the merchandise that was being sold in white tents lining the perimeter of Riverfront Park, which I must say was very reasonably priced and not to mention fashionable. Once settled into our spot and content with our purchases, the waiting game began. 

Photo by Senny Farhy

The opening band, Glove, took the stage at 7:58 pm (two full minutes ahead of schedule) and having heard only the chorus of one of their songs before, Trisha and I had no idea what to expect. With high expectations in place for Cage, Glove missed the mark entirely. The music was strange and not catchy or upbeat at all. Not only was the crowd less and less interested with each song, but the band itself also brought very little excitement and enthusiasm. The odd, almost electronic-sounding mix of alternative rock and synth-pop brought a head bob and a light foot tap at the very best and at its worst, people began to sit down, resting their legs for what was in store. Fortunately, the band kept their set short and wrapped up in under thirty-five minutes. Once Glove had exited the stage, the real wait began. Stage assistance brought in the instruments placed tape along the stage’s perimeter, and adjusted microphone stands for a whopping half hour. The audience buzzed with anticipation while Trisha and I, excited yet impatient, tried to predict what song the band would open and close with. An additional ten minutes passed before the overhead lights dimmed to a purple shade and the background music slowly faded away.

Finally, a figure dressed head to toe in a sequined, skin-tight jumpsuit and sporting a helmet entered the stage. He carried a rolling suitcase and made his way slowly to the middle of the stage, walking as if he were a traveler lost in an unfamiliar city. Although facially unrecognizable, the entirety of Riverfront Park knew who it was: Matt Shultz. Screams erupted from the crowd and within the first thirty seconds of Shultz’s presence on the stage, more excitement had been produced than all thirty-five minutes of Glove. The purple lights went dark while the rest of the band stealthily made their way to their designated posts on stage. Finally, the moment the crowd had been waiting for: the lights flashed red and the opening guitar riff to “Broken Boy” coursed through the speakers.

From the get go, the energy that Shultz brought to the stage was unmatched. He sprinted from side to side, engaging every audience member. He continued the set with “Cry Baby,” although older and lesser known, the crowd couldn’t help but emulate Shultz’s enthusiasm. The song off of their album, Tell Me I’m Pretty, was followed by “Spiderhead,” an iconic, high-energy hit off of Melophobia. Already only four songs into the set, people were screaming, jumping, and clapping along as Shultz clapped his hands over his head while the entire audience followed his lead.

In between songs, Shultz wasted no time making small-talk with the audience, offering oddly deep quotes here and there, for example: “things are refined… we are refined… under great pressure and so… I just want to say love is eternal,” a little strange to interject in between rock songs, but nonetheless the quote was welcomed by cheers from the audience as Shultz led into his next song, “Cold Cold Cold.” After the first five songs, Shultz unzipped the top half of his jumpsuit and wore just the bottom half as pants for the remainder of the show. After this, he performed three of his most recent songs, off of the 2019 album Social Cues, “Ready To Let Go,” “Tokyo Smoke,” and their title song, “Social Cues.” While switching between songs, a chant began consisting of one word: “Aberdeen,” a song off of Cage’s album, Thank You Happy Birthday. The crowd desperately wanted to hear the song and poking fun at their desperation, the band played only the introduction to the song before moving on to their next.

At this point in the concert, it is important to note the shoes that I was wearing that night. In November of 2020, I had purchased a pair of high-top converse with the cover art from Cage’s album, Melophobia, painted on them, and of course, I had to wear them to the concert. Out of a glimmer of hope that Trisha and I would somehow make it to the front of the concert, I had packed a Sharpie in my fanny pack before leaving. Once situated at the front of the crowd, it was clear that getting Schultz to sign my shoe was a serious possibility. I kept the shoe on for the beginning of the show; however, once I noticed Shultz signing autographs at the other end of the stage, I knew what must be done. I removed my shoe approximately five songs into the show and held it above my head along with my Sharpie. 

Photo by Trisha Priyadarshi

Although I will admit that it was obnoxious of me to be standing at a concert waving my shoe in the air above everyone, I was greeted by lots of support, assistance, and excitement from my fellow crowd members. One girl in the very front row offered to take my shoe and hold it up closer to the stage in an attempt for Shultz to notice, one girl behind me shouted “you better get that signed,” but the true MVP of the night was a boy stationed in front of me and Trisha. After noticing my desperate attempts for Shultz to notice me, he motioned for me to go ahead of him to get closer to the stage. This proved very helpful as I, along with the help of the surrounding people, was able to wave Shultz down and he finally noticed me. He held up a finger as if to say “in a minute” or “one more song” and went on to sing “Mess Around” and “Trouble.” Astonished at this interaction with my idol, I sang along to the next two songs with extra energy to show my true dedication as a fan and hopefully earn a signature. As he led into “Skin and Bones,” my hopes began to diminish while he stood on the other side of the stage. However, circa one minute in, he made his way over to me during the chorus, and as he finished and began the second verse, he stepped down to a lower platform and reached his hand out. I held out my Sharpie and he took it, grinned at me, and with a flick of the pen, signed my shoe. He then went on to sign film cameras and take pictures on them, sign a pink cowboy hat and put it on, and take peoples phones on stage to take selfies. 

After what may possibly be the most thrilling moment of my life, Shultz continued the concert with one of Cage’s biggest hits, “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked,” which grasped everyone from the superfans to the casual listeners. He then slowed down the tempo with a more heartfelt and meaningful song, “Telescope.” However, the slow mood was kept short as the tempo picked back up with “House of Glass” and ”Come A Little Closer,” which were followed by my two personal favorite songs of the night. First was “Shake Me Down,” an older and more underground song but nonetheless an enigma of emotion, spirit, hype, and inspiration which was almost surreal to hear live after the countless hours it had been blasted over my car radio. Cage’s most popular song, “Cigarette Daydreams,” came next. The slowest and most momentous song of the night, Cigarette Daydreams prompted each individual to use every remaining bit of strength in their lungs to belt out the lyrics for an unforgettable and sentimental moment. Cage then closed out their set by switching the mood completely with “Teeth,” a rougher almost punk-rock song which I usually don’t love, however in the moment it was hard to hate the energy and hype of not only the band but also the audience. 

Once the song ended, the band exited the stage to “We Are the Champions” by Queen, a nod to their inspiration taken from older bands and past time periods. Matt Shultz then re-entered the stage, this time alone and carrying an acoustic guitar. He took a seat on a stool and began playing a soft ballad that was not a cover of an existing song or a pre-existing Cage song, leading audience members to believe that it was an unreleased song. Titled “The Golden Days” by many on Google, the song was very unlike that of a typical Cage song; it was soft and vulnerable. The audience hung onto every single word out of Shultz’s mouth during the exclusive performance and gave a huge cheer of approval for the new song at the end. To all of our sadness, Shultz dismounted his stool as “Bohemian Rhapsody” started up over the speakers and began to pack his suitcase that he had entered the stage with. He departed the stage during the lyric “goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go” for a very emotional ending to a very moving and memorable night. 

Overall, I must say that this concert has likely ruined all future concerts I will attend. Every single moment of it (except for maybe Glove) brought a thrill like no other. The people were kind, the venue was gorgeous, the music was exceptional, and the memories were unforgettable. Safe to say, Cage the Elephant was a clear ten out of ten.