Why the Cure's marathon gigs might not be the best way to play The Cure have announced their unhappiness at our reviewer saying they played too long at the Royal Albert Hall this weekend. But, she says, brevity is a virtue
• Read Caroline Sullivan's original review here
inShare 0 Email Robert Smith Robert Smith … 'Was it 45 songs or 46? I've lost count …' Photograph: Bleddyn Butcher/Rex Features In the run-up to the annual Teenage Cancer Trust gig series at the Royal Albert Hall last week, the charity’s website noted that the Friday and Saturday headliners, The Cure, would be playing three-hour sets, with no support act. In the event, they were onstage for around three-and-a-half hours, slotting in 45 songs each night. That’s pretty remarkable (though their 50-song, four-hour show in Mexico City last year is the one to beat), bespeaking a fan/band relationship where the passion has only increased over the years. Going by reaction on Twitter, many people considered it one of the best shows they’d ever seen, and reacted angrily to reviews in the Guardian and elsewhere that suggested there could be too much of a good thing.
The Cure themselves also responded to the reviews. Well, to my review in the Guardian, specifically. “THE REVIEW WAS – TO PUT IT POLITELY - LAZY NONSENSE,” they said on Facebook. “ … swampy… numbing… yet to work out how to build up a show… GULP!!! BUT WE NOW KNOW WHERE WE HAVE BEEN GOING WRONG ALL THIS TIME: Condensed into 90 minutes, this would have been one of the gigs of the year. WE PLAY TOO MANY SONGS! DOH! BUT… IS IT NOT VERY OBVIOUS THAT WE PLAY OUR OWN SHOWS (AS OPPOSED TO FESTIVAL HEADLINES) FOR FANS OF THE BAND?”
You take their point: what band doesn’t want to spend as much time as possible doing something they love? Conversely, though, imagine the intensity if the show’s dark, dreamlike energy had been condensed into a couple of hours. The impact would have been far greater, freed of the mid-show sluggishness that afflicts the vast majority of long-form shows. The sheer slog of being onstage for more than three hours means that artistry is ill-served by marathon shows: most bands don’t even try, with the exception of Bruce Springsteen and the Grateful Dead, whose six-hour mind-bogglers were designed as trippy sensory experiences.
The idea of giving fans their money’s worth must also be there in the Cure’s thinking – but can we consider that, sometimes, the most perfect gigs are those where the artist says what they need to in a shorter time? The build-up, the teasers, the communal release – all this can be played out, to greater effect, over a shorter timespan. A very long gig, on the other hand, has a kind of “let’s see how committed you are” aggression. It demands a long attention span – something rapidly becoming extinct in our 140-character culture; and it presumes that public transport runs all night and nobody has to get up early the next day.
“WHEN WE GO TO SEE AN ARTIST WE ARE FANS OF, WE DON’T WANT THE PERFORMANCE TO END … THAT’S WHAT BEING A FAN MEANS … ISN’T IT?” they ask. But is that what it means? There is such a thing as being sated, even by an artist you love; it can be much more satisfying to leave a gig feeling tantalised by all the songs the artist didn’t play, with the prospect of hearing them next time.
“THAT IS WHY WE PLAY A MIX OF SONGS, AND WHY WE PLAY FOR AS LONG AS WE DO …” they assert. And that’s fair enough, because Cure fans want to hear them. Yet, in a broader sense, it doesn’t obtain that the best gig experience is the longest. Compared to the inventiveness of artists who chop and change, playing full-band shows one tour, then acoustic story-telling gigs the next, it’s hard to feel excited by the all-you-can-eat ethos. The Cure’s stature in British rock has never been in doubt, so surely now is the time for them to cut loose and experiment with a different approach to gigging. They’ve already staged themed tours with their Trilogy concerts, playing three complete albums at each gig. Another Trilogy series has been announce d for the end of this year. But what about something outside the usual parameters?
I can't even deal with the stupidity of this reviewer. Not only does she lie and say that The Cure liked her original review but now she just can't seem to drop it. Wonder if Robert will go on another rant. I hope he lets her have it...again!