The Cure / Mogwai / The Twilight Sad / The Joy Formidable – Bellahouston Park, Glasgow – Friday 16th August 2019
I’ve had something of an on/off relationship with the Cure. For every album I’ve got of theirs, there’s probably two I don’t own and I’m pretty certain that I’ve not bought anything after ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’.
I’d still seen them twice before Bellahouston though – at the Edinburgh Playhouse in 1985 and seven years later at the Caird Hall in Dundee. They were fantastic on both occasions so combining this good track record with a stellar support bill, we ventured into the great outdoors for their first Scottish show in 27 years with, it has to be admitted, a little trepidation with the likely weather featuring very much in our thoughts.
The run-up to the show was wet but from the middle of the week, the forecast for the duration of the show seemed to improve each day. Unfortunately, Glasgow was drenched on the morning of the show and the ground at Bellahouston Park was pretty sodden if still largely grassed – on the way in at least. Nevertheless, there were patches which were sodden and even with decking in front of the stage water would bubble up through the holes when someone walked over a square. With a full crowd, you would imagine that the area was effectively a large puddle by the time the headliners took the stage.
The Joy Formidable had the misfortune of opening the whole weekend – I say misfortune because the sound for the first half of the three piece’s set was that horrible thumping bass drum and vocals mix you can get at big outdoor events. Things did come into focus towards the end of their allotted 30 minutes and the final ‘Whirring’ was magnificent. But it still felt like a missed opportunity.
I’ve not seen them The Twilight Sad for several years but they nailed it from the opening ‘[10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs]’ – indeed their widescreen epics seem tailor made for the huge stage.
Their set was largely based around current album ‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ but latterly took in the Robert Smith covered ‘’There’s A Girl In The Corner’ before finishing with ‘And She Would Darken The Memory’ from the debut.
The showstopper though was undoubtedly their cover of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ with James barely holding it together. There were more than a few moist eyes in the arena at that point
This was undoubtedly the best show I’ve seen them play and we’re very much looking forward to seeing them again in Aberdeen in a few weeks.
Just like the headliners, this show was only my third time seeing Mogwai. If the 50 minute set didn’t match the breadth of their headlining slot in Aberdeen several years ago, they very much made the shortened running time work in their favour.
Like the Sad before them, Mogwai are perfectly suited to this type of environment with ‘Crossing The Road material’ setting them off on a stroll through some of their best known material, but with a healthy chunk of more recent stuff.
Highlight of the whole day had to be ‘Remurdered’ with the audience energised by the day’s only heavy shower contained within the song’s running time. Coincidence or special effect? Mogwai certainly have supernatural control of their music but do they really also control the elements? Maybe not, yet the appearance of a spreading rainbow throughout the final, thunderous ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ suggested otherwise.
And so to the headliners. Stuck in pretty much the same position for several hours, the old bones were starting to feel the pace and the feet were also suffering by 8.30 pm.
I’ll confess that I found the opening run of songs (principally from ‘Disintegration’) more than a little one paced. Only ‘A Night Like This’ broke the monotony but it came from my era of the Cure and attention was certainly starting to drift.
However, ‘Burn’ followed by ‘Fascination Street’ added some energy into the mix and thereafter the show pretty much was as good as I’d hoped. Other than ‘Inbetween Days’ and ‘Just Like hHaven’ the main set avoided the pop songs in favour of the band’s darker side. Songs seemed to largely be grouped or at least paired with songs of a similar era the highlight of which was the run of ‘Play For Toady’, ‘A Forest’ and ‘Primary’.
Yet after a mighty ‘Shake Dog Shake’, the finale of ‘39’ and ‘Disintegration’ felt a bit of a let-down.
The band did return for the pop encore featuring some of the band’s biggest hits to the audience’s obvious delight before concluding with a celebratory ‘Boys Don’t Cry’.
Push me a little and I’d suggest that trimmed by about half an hour the show would have been sublime. But it probably confirmed my opinion of the band, lots of great stuff but a fair chunk of stuff I’m unenthused about.
The crowd was an odd mix – very much younger overall than I anticipated. I’m not quite sure how a band that were at their peak as a recording and commercial band 25-30 years ago continue to expand their following (although the long gap since their last Scottish show perhaps goes some way to explain that). The weird thing though is that they’re not a stadium band at all – sure there is a large sound with some hooks, but compared to the Foo Fighters (the following night’s headliners) the Cure are an odd, weird band.
A positive of the crowd was that there seemed to be fewer neds than you might expect at such an outdoor show (although we did have a couple of arseholes in our vicinity later on). And I’ve seen quite a few people talking online about the amount of talking during the show (again something we suffered from).
Leaving the arena was a treacherous affair – it’s really surprising that this isn’t more of a problem for Health & Safety. But frankly the walkways in the arena were more of a hazard than a help and what grass there had been at the start had been churned to mud long before the end. Which makes a mockery of the ‘Respect the park’ signs dotted throughout the arena – inviting 100,000 people into the park following a wet August week is certainly not respecting the park.
Having said that it wasn’t a horrible experience at all. I wouldn’t rule out doing it again for the right band/bill but right now it’s hard to see who would tempt us back into an outdoor show in a field or a park. A stadium show would be marginally more appealing.