THREE AND A HALF HOUR CONCERT: Waiting too long for The Cure?

2 Apr

When it comes to a professional critical review of a concert, it can be difficult to get it right.

Reviews are always going to be subjective. If you’re a huge fan of a band then chances are, you’re going to enjoy seeing them live no matter what, and you’re going to be even happier to hear the b-sides. On the other hand, if you’ve only heard them once or twice and your mate had a spare ticket, you’re going to be less pleased to barely recognise any of the songs – and that’s not taking into consideration that it could be a band like My Bloody Valentine. Not for the faint-hearted, that one.

But neither of those perspectives would be wrong.

While it’s true that a concert review should be a critical evaluation, it’s also – at its heart – the description of an experience. There are certain technicalities which can’t be avoided; the quality of the sound, whether the band were late on stage, whether the lead singer was too drunk to stand upright, let alone perform coherently… that kind of thing. But in terms of enjoyment, it can be difficult to place – and while the fans’ enjoyment should obviously be taken into consideration, so should the reviewer’s.

Caroline Sullivan has come under fire recently for her review of The Cure’s 45-song performance for the Teenage Cancer Trust – a performance which lasted three and a half hours and, in her words, contained ‘a ragbag of B-sides, album tracks and hits.’ The review was 300 words long – slightly ironic that it also came under fire by commenters for its length – and Sullivan’s main complaint was that the set seemed to be going nowhere, calling it ‘numbing’.

“Condensed into 90 minutes, though,” Sullivan says, “this would have been one of the gigs of the year.”

Many of the fans at the concert were incensed by this, as was Robert Smith himself. Taking to Twitter in order to blast Sullivan, he wrote, “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?”

For fans, The Cure’s performance was great. But as any creator knows, editing is an important facet of art, and sometimes it’s possible to create more of an impact by keeping things concise. Yes, it’s great for fans to hear all the songs that they wanted, and that they don’t want the performance to end. But there’s some truth in the old adage to ‘keep them wanting more’, and if a concert goes on for too long than even the most avid fans could find themselves checking their watches.

There’s nothing wrong with a three, four or even six hour show (although it could be a bit tricky if it starts breaking curfews – shout out to Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen’s 2012 Hyde Park performance). But the problem is when a performance becomes boring, regardless of length. And just because the fans enjoyed it, it doesn’t mean that Sullivan’s point of view was wrong either.

The Cure are undoubtedly the George R. R. Martins of the music world. Let’s just not forget that a lot of people choose to watch the TV series instead.


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