Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Cure

This is classic Cure. Brilliant, infuriating, inspired, perverse and all points in between, all in one 90 minute set. There has to be some degree of understanding, some allowances made, though. When you've been around for almost 35 years and released 13 albums, whittling all that down to an hour and half must be hard. Especially when you are used to playing for anything up to three and a half hours. In turn, though, this makes it all the harder to understand why they choose to go with not one but three songs which each last in excess of seven minutes. That's 28% of the stage time gone on three numbers and you've still got most of your career to cover.

Infuriation rises on two counts, though. The first is that, when tickets went on sale, Robert Smith promised that this wouldn't be a show to promote the new album, '4.13 Dream'. Yet there are no fewer than six songs in this set from that album, few of which come anywhere close to the highlights of previous albums. Even if Smith wanted to emphasise the band's more recent work, was there really no room for songs such as 'alt.end' or 'Where the Birds Always Sing'? Stand either of those against the bland Cure-by-numbers of songs such as 'The Hungry Ghost' and you can easily see how off-target this set was.

Similarly, for all the protestations that there would be at least one song from each album, no song from 'Wild Mood Swings' got out of the starting gates.

On the other hand, as always with The Cure, the quality of the material and the brilliance of the performance transcends the irritations. 'From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea' is majestic, 'Disintegration' retains all of its brutal angst despite approaching it's 20th birthday and newie 'The Only One' really is everything good the band have ever done rolled into one. Onstage, Smith belies his age in a black hoodie and cargo pants whilst Simon Gallup seems to have turned into a 195os rocker. Porl Thompson, meanwhile, now looks like the bastard offspring of Richard O'Brien and Vivienne Westwood and stomps around the stage in heels higher than most of them women in the audience.

Then, right at the end, they go and spoil it all by changing 'Killing An Arab' to 'Killing Another'. This is political correctness gone mad - but then again, how fitting that they celebrate their legacy by tarnishing a part of it? Its very wrong, but it is very Cure.

Franz Ferdinand

Finding something new to say about Scotland's finest art-rockers is hard to do. Everything about Alex Kapranos and co is so, well, safe. You know exactly what you are going to get - a few new songs, slightly more disco than the old ones, but not so much so that they alienate the old fans, old standards like 'Take Me Out' and 'This Fire', and the bit where they all batter seven shades of something out of the drumkit during 'The Outsiders'. Hell, you can even tell that there will be no 'Darts of Pleasure' tonight, because bass player Bob Hardy doesn't have a microphone. It's enjoyable, but it's hardly exciting.

Crystal Castles

What an abberation. What a horrible, stinking, filthy abberation. Booking Crystal Castles to play to this audience was the worst decision since Hitler decided that Germany wasn't quite big enough for his ego. They try - oh how they try! - but no matter how much Alice Glass preens, writhes and waves the footlights about, nothing can conceal the fact that, live, Crystal Castles are, well, a bit shit. Yes, there are problems with the microphone that render the vocal inaudible, but at the same time the music of any half decent band should provoke a reaction stronger than the 'So what?' that this set gets.

White Lies

What better way to start off a night dedicated to The Cure than with their latest descendants. White Lies take the gloom of early-80s Goth, through in the poppier moments of Joy Division and then add a sprinkling of the late Billy McKenzie to create the sort of epic sound many other bands can only dream of.

There's a delightful touch of naivety in their performance - opening with current single 'Farewell to the Fairground' before many have a chance to get into the auditorium, then tossing off their best known track, 'To Lose My Life', immediately after. But as the audience swells, so does the confidence of Harry, Charles and Jack and by the time they reach the elegiac sounds of 'Death' they have conquered not only their own fears, but the vast cavern that is the O2 Arena as well.