The Reading Festival; World-renowned, legendary and iconic. One of the most celebrated, influential and important events in alternative music.
The Cure; world-renowned, legendary and iconic, one of the more celebrated, influential and important figures in alternative music. Seems like a natural fit right?
Well apparently not, because these two alternative rock figureheads have never crossed paths. This piece is not only an attempt to offer unadulterated proof that this band are the perfect headliner choice, but also an incontestable plea to put right a crime that has long been overlooked.
So, what are the main attributes necessary for a Reading Festival headliner, or any headliner in general?
Is it popularity? Radio hits and record sales? Ability to sell out arenas? Artistic worth? Influence and legend? Or do they have to be considered “current enough” (whatever that means)?
Let’s face it. The Cure embody every aspect previously mentioned. One can only assume the only stumbling block with the “booking committee”, as it were, would be the mention of the word current? The issue is seemingly (and wrongly) the idea that The Cure are somehow not “current” enough to be appreciated by the “contemporary Reading audience”. This idea is, however, farcical, and I’ll tell you why.
Are The Cure Popular Enough, and Do They Have The Hits?
Starting at the beginning; Popularity, radio-hits and record sales? Let’s face it, first and foremost The Cure are a British national treasure. With a list of hits as long as their collective ex-member’s arm-spans, and a whole host of songs with the “know-them-even-if-you-don’t” factor, one would be guaranteed a fantastic setlist. Raised hands for anyone who doesn’t know the following songs. (A Side note: before raising hands break out spotify, youtube, CD’s, MP3’s or just develop a basic interest in music and I guarantee you’ll have heard of the vast majority)
These songs are part of the cultural law in our country. People love them. They come on the radio, and you will dance, you will sing, you will have a nostalgic feeling for a time you probably weren’t around for. Forget The Cure for a minute and look at the real festival moments of 2011.
Was it My Chemical Romance giving their lackluster set to a underwhelming crowd, or was it 80,000 people conga-ing, jumping and going downright mental to One Step Beyond with Madness. Not in any way suggesting that newer bands aren’t of any worth, that would be downright stupid, but festivals are and always will be about variety. Yes people love to see the bands that they hear every day on the radio, but when presented with the chance, who wouldn’t opt for singing the songs of their childhood, of their culture, of their country? This is why the festival needs both old and new.
It needs the powerhouse of BBC Radio One to bring in ticket-sales, but also needs the acts the bring in the older crowd, the crowd that feel disenfranchised (and if you want to go there… the crowd with a far more disposable income). Yes, popularity and hits are important, and at the end of the day, how many acts have more hits than The Cure? And more specifically how many more hits do The Cure have than specific recent headliners (…put together)?
Plus, Do we really NEED the same headliners on constant rotation (regardless of the popularity of Metallica, Foo Fighters etc), or do we want to, once in a while, come together, arm in arm and dance like awkward intoxicated jubilant goths to ‘The Lovecats’.
Having sold over 15 million albums/singles worldwide, released 13 albums, had 22 UK Top-40 singles, won countless awards, A rock and roll hall of fame nomination, a tie with Coldplay for ‘Most Glastonbury headline slots’, a critically adored set of 2011 shows, plus a sell out at the Royal Albert Hall (“you are in a queue of 40,000” are words that will haunt me forever). The Cure are the physical embodiment of radio hits, record sales and popularity. Needless to say, The Cure have the hits, and the popularity to headline.
Are The Cure Worthy of Headlining?
Often, when referring to a certain bands “worth” as a headliner, we often refers to arena tour dates. This argument being fundamentally flawed in the modern music climate, as anyone can play, book or even sell out arenas. Does this make them bonafide headliners? Regardless of The Cure (who’ve been selling out arenas since the 80’s), anyone can play an arena. Recent acts who’ve played (and in some cases sold out) an arena… The Courteeners, White Lies, Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Example, Machine Head, My Chemical Romance, Swedish House Mafia… None of these could, would or should ever have been considered headline acts yet they all have played arenas. So this argument is totally flawed, yet it always seems to be the ultimate argument as to why this band or that cannot headline.
The “worth” of an act isn’t always in the crowd size pulled. It’s the artistic worth that allows for acts to play the festival to smaller crowds and get away with it. It’s the Nine Inch Nails effect… small yet impassioned crowd leading to one of the best performances in Reading history. It’s like comparing a blockbuster extravaganza like Transformers to artier Sci-fi classic Bladerunner. Yeah Transformers has been seen by more people, and has a higher monetary pull… but which is going to live on forever as a classic movie? Size isn’t everything and ultimately you need to balance critical acclaim and blockbuster acts because ultimately it’s the critical acclaim that feeds legend, that makes a festival and certain performance live on forever (Most recently… Arcade Fire).
Pixies could never sell out an arena, but no-one questions their booking as a headline act in 2004. Pixies are an act with so much heritage to the festival and the alt music scene, their iconic status is never called to question (and rightfully so). So why are The Cure not considered in the same light? They’ve influenced, and made more of an impact than possibly any other British act in history. And if it is a case of art-vs-monetary value then The Cure, uniquely, embody, and exemplify both. Which is, again, a solid enough reason to book them.
Do The Cure Still Matter To Modern Music and Modern Musicians?
Speaking of influence… this is where the argument pretty much stands as untouchable. I (yes I) have a challenge for you (yes you.) Look at any Reading Festival of the past 11 years. Count up all the acts that have either been influenced by The Cure, Or how many acts love and respect them. It’s astonishing. For instance in 2004 MTV awarded the gloomy bunch their prestigious ‘Icon’ award for their contributions to music (an award previously granted to only three other acts, Metallica and Aerosmith included).
The award ceremony consisted of a crowd of adoring celebrities and fans, and an all-star cast of musicians set and ready to pay tribute. Marilyn Manson hosted the event, while Razorlight, AFI, Deftones, and 2010 headliners Blink-182 came out in force to pay tribute. Comparably NME gave The Cure their Godlike Genius award in 2009, which led to a sellout date at the O2 Arena.
Now take a list of all the acts who’ve shown their adoration for the band by covering or sampling; Dinosaur Jr, Editors, Santigold, The Big Pink, OKGo, Death Cab For Cutie, Amanda Palmer, Arcade Fire, Lady Sovereign, Lostprophets, Marmaduke Duke, Biffy Clyro, British Sea Power, The Get Up Kids, The Futureheads, My Chemical Romance, Marilyn Manson, Metronomy, Alkaline Trio, Goldfinger, Crystal Castles, Metallica, Interpol, Limp Bizkit, Green Day, Linkin Park, the list goes on, even mainstream darling Adele has declared her love.
Their influence is immeasurable. All of the aforementioned acts have either played Reading recently, or would be popular with the “Reading Audience”. One often hears people suggest the “current Reading Audience” don’t know who The Cure are, or wouldn’t appreciate them. That is essentially a declaration of stupidity. The modern Reading audience seem to have garnered the (incorrect) stereotype of being hideously thick, and often the bands booked reflect this. But the success of acts like Madness and Pulp this year, really does testify to the fact that the Reading audience ain’t dumb. They know music and they do show respect where respect is due. And The Cure are certainly due.
I mean how many acts would stand on stage for 4+ hours each night doing varied setlists just out of the love and passion of music and their fans. When the Cure headlined Coachella in 2007 they played their set for nearly four hours, had their power cut, and came back out to play an acoustic set. That is The Cure; respect for fans and their influence on the industry. They respect every audience they play to, and have influenced the large majority modern acts. Their influence isn’t just subsidized into Music, the reverberations can be felt worldwide, typified by Robert Smith teaming up with Eric Cartman to take on the evil “mecha-steisand” in South Park (“Disintergration is the best album ever). So ingrained and iconic are The Cure that any reference is understood, every sighting is recognized, every song is automatically known and relished.
Are The Cure Current Enough?
Ultimately, the issue of ‘Are The Cure “current” enough to headline Reading Festival’ is a valid one. But if one is to look logically at the situation, then there is no denying the success that would come when The Cure take to the stage at the legendary Reading Festival. The sheer rarity of their UK appearances would guarantee it to be one of “those moments” where two icons collide. This year’s Bestival has received nothing but rapturous acclaim, almost wholly and solely because of The Cure.
“Current” is not a word that applies to the Cure because there is a direct contradiction in terms between ‘current’ and ‘timeless’. The Cure are not only timeless, they rank up with the biggest and best British acts of all time. There is no denying their influence, or popularity. Their worth as artists has never been denied. So why for the sake of every mopey Goth kids happiness, have the Cure never headlined Reading? There just seems to be a strange collective amnesia in the UK music industry over The Cure’s contributions, influence, and fundamentally, brilliance.
How can a band so highly regarded, so influential, so respected, and so timeless “not fit” the most iconic alternative music festival. It’s sad that people feel this way, it seems that the world has lost its need and appreciation for alternative music, and the giants it beholds. How can a generation of music fans “not get” The Cure when they “get” every band they’ve influenced, or know a large proportion of their popular pathos-ridden psalms.
This belief that the Cure are somehow “not right” for Reading confirms either the death of alternative music (and enhances the state of flux Reading seems to be in) or someone, somewhere along the line has massively misjudged, misunderstood and misrepresented the fans, the music, the business, the festival and The Cure.