Critics, Set Lengths and That Cure Review

Oh dear.

Reviewer goes to gig and is very obviously not on the same page as either band or audience. Review generates all-too-predictable fan backlash. Reviewer writes self-justifying blog post in an attempt to have the last word. Hilarity ensues.

One is left with the impression that Caroline Sullivan believes that the only acceptable format for any veteran band is an end-of-the-pier-show style greatest hits set. When a band is playing a three-hour show filled with deep cuts and obscure b-sides aimed at devoted hardcore fans, you do wonder why The Guardian sent a reviewer who’s on record for saying that nobody other than Madonna should play for more than 45 minutes. I’m reminded of that awful Steve Hackett review from last year.

As anyone that genuinely loves live music ought to know, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits all length for a band’s set. 45 minutes is all anyone should want or need from a band like The Ramones, and there is a reason few metal bands go beyond 90 minutes, with 75 being common. On the other hand two and a half hours is common for prog bands, especially long-established ones, and many audiences would feel short-changed if they get anything less.

Three hour shows are really only for veteran acts who have created a substantial body of work with depth as well as breadth. While I’m not that familiar with The Cure’s back catalogue, their longevity does suggest they fall into that category.

I just hope The Guardian never sent Caroline Sullivan to review a Marillion convention with seven and a half hours music spread over three nights…

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4 Responses to Critics, Set Lengths and That Cure Review

  1. Hell, Psychic TV at the Ritz back in the 90s were there from something like 8PM ’till god knows how long, and they had quite a generous back (and front) catalog to work from.

    I get the impression this sort of thinking is common with critics who can’t stand the idea that someone might enjoy a band in some way other than they do.

  2. bethnoir says:

    I have to say, as a big Cure fan who only saw them live a couple of years ago, there might be such a thing as too long, but let me explain. In my case, there were quite a few songs they played which were emotionally important to me, from highs and lows of my life and I felt wrung out after 2 and a half hours and actually exhausted by the end. I would argue their right to play for 3 hours for as long as they want to, but an interval or something would have helped me!

  3. Tim Hall says:

    To be fair, almost everyone I’ve seen that plays much over two hours does include an interval. The Mars Volta’s three-hour seamless jam was an exception.

  4. bethnoir says:

    I reckon I might be too old for gigs that long these days! I saw the Cure in 2008 and the then guitarist Porl (Pearl) Thompson looked like he was going to collapse towards the end.