Though native to Colorado, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is a venue on every avid music lover’s bucket list. This visually breathtaking venue, surrounded by enormous red rocks reminiscent of the Flintstones, has hosted some of rock ‘n’ roll’s most legendary performances, many of which have become hit live album and concert film sensations. We all remember U2’s legendary Under a Blood Red Sky performance, Neil Young’s Silver & Gold tour and the time Mumford & Sons used their Red Rocks performance as their official music video for “I Will Wait,” but nobody ever remembers that time a musician crowd surfed all the way to the top of the venue. That’s because nobody’s ever had the balls to do so. Until Cage the Elephant showed up.
Known for his intrepid stage antics, frontman Matthew Shultz lived up to his reputation last week by crowd surfing the entire Red Rocks Amphitheatre—70 rows in total. After desperate pleas for an encore—after a 14-song set list—Cage the Elephant returned to the stage with blood pumping through their veins to perform a scintillating tag of “Shake Me Down” and “Sabertooth Tiger.” As the crowd’s cheers soared, so did Shultz’s adrenaline and in the blink of an eye, he was out in the crowd. Nearby stagehands, all too familiar with Shultz’s stage dives, were ready and waiting to pull him back on stage, but Shultz kept on moving, climbing over thousands of people. Miraculously, he didn’t fall once, despite the mountain’s incline. Moments later, pictures quickly surfaced throughout social media of Shultz riding the wave of fans, grabbing the shirtless rock god any which way they could, nipples and all. But this wasn’t the band’s only highlight of the night, for much lead up to this spectacle. I’m talking about a spectacle so wonderful, it made the night sky jealous even though it had the moon.
The band opened the night with “Spiderhead” (off their Grammy-nominated record Melophobia), a viscerally tumultuous slab of rock apropos for this venue. Crowd favorites continued with over 9,000 fans singing along to “In One Ear,” “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Back Against the Wall.” The opening chords of each of these rowdy numbers, especially guitarist Nick Bockrath’s bouncy progression on “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” easily make any crowd go wild. These are the rock anthems of the 21st century, anthems that showcase guts and aggression for a time when rock ‘n’ roll needs more badasses. Throughout the set, no matter the album, the fans knew the songs, and surprisingly enough, the younger fans—who were only about 13 when the band’s 2008 debut dropped—knew the lyrics verbatim. But perhaps what stood out most was the band’s ability to connect with the fans, especially on the ballads. “Cigarette Daydreams,” a love song written for Shultz’s wife, Juliette, created such an atmosphere between fan and band, this undeniable circuit of emotions, that it was hard not to get caught up in it. Even Portugal.the Man bassist Zach Carothers, who was hanging backstage, couldn’t help but snap Polaroids of the scene before him. But all this is likely to happen at a venue like Red Rocks, a place Mother Nature lovingly excavated with her hands, a place where up to 9,525 people can be seated, a place where every seat has an unobstructed view of the stage matched by just right acoustics. Add that to Matt Shultz’s Mick Jagger-like struts and the band’s vivacious spirit and it’s no wonder Cage the Elephant sold out the damn house.
Afterwards, backstage, the band celebrated another one for the books as they received honorary Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre trophies inscribed with their names and the date of the show. How come the Beatles didn’t receive one when they played Red Rocks in the ’60s? Well, they didn’t sell out the venue. For Cage the Elephant, that was a piece of cake.