NME Big Gig featuring The Cure - The O2 Arena, London
It’s hard to believe that just a year ago three London lads, under their new guise White Lies, were playing London’s tiny Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen venue. Since then, they have had sold out tours, a number one album and they can now add the minor task of opening for music legends The Cure at the O2. Not only that, but also making a damn good effort of stealing the show away from the illustrious headliners with a flawless 30-minute set.
Opening with current single Farewell To The Fairground and racing through a seven song set including the hit singles To Lose My Life and Death, White Lies kept everyone in the O2, well the people who made the effort to get to the venue early, enthralled with their perfected dark indie charms. The band were aided by a crystal-clear sound usually only reserved for headliners, which made tracks like Fifty On Our Foreheads sound more ominous and epic than ever. It’s not even hyperbole to state that I’d have gone home happy from the gig if I had left at the end of their set.
FAREWELL TO THE FAREGROUND
TO LOSE MY LIFE
A PLACE TO HIDE
FIFTY ON OUR FOREHEADS
THE PRICE OF LOVE
If only the NME had a crystal ball and could have seen just how huge White Lies were to become when they booked them for their Big Gig in December, then there would have been no chance that they would playing second fiddle to Crystal Castles. While lead singer Alice did have to battle microphone problems throughout their set, not even the kind of flawless sound experienced by White Lies could have saved Crystal Castles set being anything other than dreadful.
While there is no doubt that Alice puts in an energetic performance, tonight at one point she sprawls herself over the drum kit during Crimewave, the constant bleeps and electronic tones become annoying rather than tuneful even over the space of just one song. Added to that is the fact that when Alice isn’t jumping around and is taking a handy breather lying on the floor, the keyboardist Ethan Kath just stood there and it just meant that it was hard to find anything to enjoy when Alice wasn’t jumping around and even that grew old quickly. Perhaps I’m getting old before my time as the hardcore fans standing at the front of the O2 seemed to revel in every moment, but it just didn’t cut it for me after the perfection that was White Lies.
Overcoming some early issues with the stage lighting, Franz Ferdinand confirmed my belief that they have come back stronger and more confident than ever, playing a hit-filled set that even the most hardcore Franz doubter could not have been impressed with. The new tracks not only seem to fit like an old glove in with the more established big-hitters like Do You Want To and The Dark Of The Matinee, but also allow the band to let loose with some hardcore riff-age especially at the end of What She Came For.
Following the tone of the evening, lead singer Alex kept the crowd interaction to a minimum other than saying how excited he was to see The Cure, but tracks like Take Me Out almost beg for sing alongs and the now capacity crowd of the O2 didn’t disappoint. It’s also good to see that the band still haven’t stopped joining around the drum at the end of Outsiders and proceeding to play it, regardless of keeping in tune, as it definitely ranks as one of my favourite on-stage moments of any band.
Playing immediately before The Cure might have caused other bands to falter, but Franz Ferdinand came through their test with flying colours and their 45-minute set served as a tantalising appetiser for anyone going along to their tour in the next couple of weeks.
THE DARK OF THE MATINEE
NO YOU GIRLS
DO YOU WANT TO
TURN IT ON
TAKE ME OUT
WHAT SHE CAME FOR
The Cure made everyone’s night by simply arriving on stage so to proceed to play an almost two-hour long set, just made everyone’s millennium, judging by the rapturous reception given to every song. It was certainly a set more for The Cure-obsessed rather than a casual ‘hits’ fan, but even with a lack of knowledge of some tracks, it would have been hard not to be in awe of Robert Smith and co, especially guitarist Porl Thompson ability to manage more pedals than you’d find in Halfords and play some killer riffs in 6-inch stilettos.
Starting with a dreamy version of Underneath The Stars before flowing straight into From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea, the band proceeded to play a ‘concept’ set with tracks played from each of their thirteen studio albums. Even the most distinguished of bands would not have the courage to play their album tracks over the more established singles at a showcase gig like this one, but The Cure are an exceptional band in every way and it’s unlikely anyone will experience another Cure gig like it. The idea of the gig led to some notable exceptions, like The Lovecats which was a personal disappointment of mine, but when it meant The Forest was unleashed six songs in followed by a mid-set double bill of In Between Days and Just Like Heaven, then how can anyone really complain?
Crowd interaction was kept to a minimum but even Robert Smith would have probably been hard-pushed to express himself over the frequent adoration calls from members of the audience, and even the worst of the worst performers would be able to create a sing along to Just Like Heaven in an empty room without persuasion, let alone in an arena of 18,000 devoted fans. There were also impressive reactions to tracks from The Cure’s most recent album, 4:13 Dream, with It’s Over ending the main set but with the crowd sing along carrying on as the band strolled off stage.
Despite already fulfilling the 90-minute set promised by NME, The Cure came back out on stage to play an encore with more quality tracks than most bands manage to fit into a whole set. The encore kicked off with Boys Don’t Cry, which showcased The Cure’s timelessness with its unforgettable hook than everyone recognises, even if they don’t realise it’s a Cure track. Powerful renditions of Grinding Halt and 10.15 Saturday Night followed before the night was ended with a stunning quick-fire performance of Killing An Arab.
The title of Godlike Genius may be an over-exaggeration if given to most bands but over the course of their career spanning set, you realise just that if anything, it’s a slight underestimation of The Cure’s brilliance. Any other band that witnessed The Cure’s set would be left wishing they Maybe Someday, they could be a quarter of the band that The Cure are.
*Photos by Sara Rust and not even David Bailey could get front views of the bands with our side view seats!
UNDERNEATH THE STARS
FROM THE EDGE OF THE DEEP GREEN SEA
THE PERFECT BOY
THE END OF THE WORLD
SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD
THREE IMAGINARY BOYS
SHAKE DOG SHAKE
THE ONLY ONE
IN BETWEEN DAYS
JUST LIKE HEAVEN
THE HUNGRY GHOST
ONE HUNDRED YEARS
BOYS DON'T CRY
10.15 SATURDAY NIGHT
KILLING AN ARAB