ATLANTIC CITY - There have been and certainly will be more popular bands than The Cult to come to Atlantic City this year. But it's unlikely that any can rock harder.

The Cult returned Saturday to the House of Blues at Showboat Casino Hotel and once again proved that few bands out there can bring it like these British hard rockers.

Led by the always animated, confident and vocally impressive Ian Astbury, The Cult offered a solid mix of hits and deep album cuts from the band's 25-year catalog.

Opening with two songs from 1987's "Electric" - arguably the band's best effort - The Cult threw down the gauntlet early, playing a loud 75-minute, 16-song set that showed off the band's aggressive, no-holds-barred rock spirit.

The band ripped it up when offering its best-known hits like the anthemic "Fire Woman" and closers "She Sells Sanctuary" and "Love Removal Machine," but the beauty of a live Cult show is that you don't have to be a big fan to appreciate them.

Pretty much every song Saturday night sounded like it should have been a hit at some point, even though most of them weren't.

Playing at least one songs from six of the band's eight albums - sorry, "Ceremony" and "The Cult" fans - some casual fans may not have known songs such as "Rise" and "Dirty Little Rockstar," but after hearing them Saturday, iTunes downloads would be highly suggested.

Unfortunately, part of The Cult's difficulties selling records over the years is that the band is wrongly grouped with hair metal groups such as Poison and Warrant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Cult offers heavy rock with a classic rock vibe, propelled by the amazing guitar work of Billy Duffy, who thankfully retired his long '80s hairdo for a cool, shorter style that helps shed that stigma.

It's no wonder why Astbury was a perfect frontman for The Doors of the 21st Century. Wearing dark sunglasses, a denim shirt and a matching bandana to pull back his hair, Astbury's delivery eerily channels Jim Morrison - and not just his voice, but his pseudo-mystical lyrics, too.

But Astbury clearly has his own identity. A rock star through and through - last time at HOB, he threw a microphone at someone in the first row - Astbury threw tambourines into the audience like Frisbees, banged his mic stand on the stage and showed he hasn't lost an ounce of his ability.

When he ripped into "Sweet Soul Sister" and "Spiritwalker," it was like he's sharing part of his soul with the audience.

Duffy is equally impressive. Whether showing off his ability to shred frets with the best of them on "The Phoenix" or slowing it down on tunes like "Edie (Ciao Baby)," Duffy's tone is always crystal clear as he produces awesome sounds from his array of guitars.

Even the less memorable songs such as "I Assassin" and "The Witch" were not reasons to run to the bathroom. You always felt like you might miss something, like another memorable Duffy solo or John Tempesta killing the drums.

Despite The Cult's on-again, off-again status as a band, the main reason that Astbury and Duffy keep reuniting is because they really belong together. The band's two main songwriters click on every musical level. And when that happens, that's a sweet night of music.