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THE CURE / ELBOW / KEANE - Manchester Move Festival - 09 July 2004   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Wednesday, 21 July 2004
Ad what can great art aspire to be except the truth told in a way that is beautiful?

I always thought you could tell how good a band was by how much imagination went into it's name. The Smiths. The Wonder Stuff. The Manic Street Preachers. The Cure. : great names for great bands.

So I'm unsurprised by Elbow boring me to distraction. Yes, Elbow, I'm talking to you. You dull bunch of unambitious, soulless clones. There was a time when you'd rightly be hung from street corners for lowering the standard of human evolution. I blame Radiohead myself : their particular brand of complaint rock' (as Clueless so effortlessly describe it) allowed everyone to settle for second best.

Even your name is boring. You might as well call yourself "Bland" and get it over with. You're forgettable and unoriginal.

Why have gross when you can have genius? Why have dogshit, when you can have diamonds? Why have Elbow, when you can have... well, anyone else? Even EMF. Even the TV coverage of Elbow, selected to show their best material, was utterly, utterly fogettable. At least I can hum a Keane song even if I don't like it.

Keane are also here, somewhere on the bill. But to say more would be to dignify their bland existence with recognition. They exist, like AIDS and Racists. I don't like it, but there it is. Oh, and whilst I remember, imagine Coldplay without the guitars, or the bass. Just piano, drums, and yelling. Looks like someone missed a couple of ingedients. Talent, for a start. These songs mean nothing, say nothing, communicate nothing. They're the spam of the music world.

This is the product of a generation raised on nostalgia. There are no heroes, just dead icons and recycled ideas of a past that never existed. The depths of human imagination are being scraped dry by musical engineers, not artists.

And, for their first British show in eight years that is outside the 0208 dialling code, The Cure decimate such bland, lowly competition.. From the opening, pregnant Plainsong, to the final, ramshackle Boys Don't Cry (complete with tambourine solo and the keyboardist dropping his instrument in a fit of giggles) The Cure show simply why they have endured. Despite all else, their songs, and their body of work, is immense in scope and stature.

I don't know anyone else, barring possibly the consistently good David Bowie, who, twenty five or forty years into their career, and on their umpteenth album ("The Cure" is - including the compilations and limited edition rarities - their twenty-seventh album) could still make music without getting fat, old, lazy, bloated, irrelevant. But The Cure don't do this because they have to. They do it because they need to.

Still, when you don't play outside of London for eight years, you can hardly be surprised when the cricket ground is only a quarter full. Especially when you've only released one single in the last six years, your latest record is a dark and hit-free affair, and some people think you've reformed when you've never actually split up. The omens are not good. 

But they go down a storm. As soon as The Cure ditch the vast tract of tracks from the new album and begin performing a stream of hits - reeling off "Lovesong", "Inbetween Days", "Just Like Heaven" and "Pictures Of You" in one fell swoop, as well as the next two singles from the new album - this half-empty field erupts in joy. Even the people on the plastic seats about a quarter of a mile away are dancing. 

Even ranked against the best and the brightest, The Cure would do well. A bad Cure song stands head and shoulders above most bands best songs. Just at look at the songs they don't play tonight : Killing An Arab, Primary, Lets Go To Bed, The Walk, Lovecats, Caterpillar, Close To Me, Why Can't I Be You, Catch, Lullaby, Never Enough, High, Friday I'm In Love, Mint Car are all conspicous by their absence. And yet, they never feel as if they are missing, these songs. For every song they do play is simply majestic. Even their wost songs (some of which are played tonight, such as the fiteen-minute, tuneless dirge known as The Promise) are still far more worthy than most bands careers.

As the night draws to a close, the estatic crowd all sing along to a closing triumvrate of my favourite-ever Cure song, Play For Today, the staple A Forest, and the final bubblegum sweet and sour Boys Don't Cry. In their life, The Cure have always been the tolerated, token outsiders. In years to come, we will look at them and realise what exactly we had : a band that, in a year, in ten years, a hundred years, may very well be as important to music as the dead men of the classics we idolise. A band that outlived stupid, petty fashions and the bullshit that surrounds our lives, and were true to the trial.

An what can great art aspire to be except the truth told in a way that is beautiful?


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