People clad in black in 31 degree heat, round the corner from London’s Pride march, and with a revitalised England playing in the World Cup. What could possibly go wrong? As it turned out, not much. The Cure’s headline set on this, one of BST Hyde Park’s mini-festival days taking place across three stages, served as the rich icing on the tastiest of cakes; even without Robert Smith’s merry men there was enough on the bill to attract a solid mass of warm bodies.
It already proved so for Slowdive’s early and rather short set of seven songs, with Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell and co arriving on the main stage a smidge after 2:30pm knowing the football kick-off would take place before they left it. The enclosure, a barriered off expanse directly in front of the main stage serving VIPs, guests, media and whoever arrived early enough to secure themselves a free wristband, was, nonetheless, rammed.
Fully four years since their most welcome comeback began in earnest, Slowdive are a band transformed. Not only do they play with the ease of veterans who’ve known each other for half of their lives, but they do so in the knowledge that they have a well-received comeback album – its lead single Star Roving gets a big reaction here – and several world tours behind them. They close on When The Sun Hits, an apposite number for this most sweltering of days, after which Goswell leads her son on to the stage to cheers; there’s an ease between the band and their fans, too, and it’s lovely to see.
With England chalking up a win, Editors fire up on the main stage to a boisterous welcome, and Scotland’s The Twilight Sad are on the other stage, a good 10 minutes’ walk away. Goldfrapp and Lisa Hannigan also overlap, as do Interpol and Ride, and decisions on who to see and what to miss prove hard.
The ‘Frapp have brought their A game, with a short set of absolute bangers from start to end; there’s no space here for the balladry of Felt Mountain or Seventh Tree, with a set leaning heavily on Supernature, Black Cherry and last year’s album Silver Eye, released this week in deluxe format. Alison Goldfrapp keeps distractions to a minimum, focusing attention on her outsized shoulderpads and streaming sleeves as she swooshes through Systemagic, Ocean, Train, Ooh La La, Ride A White Horse and finally a thrilling, sound-perfect extended version of Strict Machine.
For their part, Interpol’s Slow Hands underlines the commercial slant to the day’s proceedings and proves to be one of the day’s highlights, with even casual fans bouncing along to its none-more-Joy Division aesthetics. Ride have a packed and attentive audience for their set on the other stage directly after, with Vapour Trail having long since cemented their place in the alternative pop pantheon as a timeless classic.
The Cure, unleashed upon the world in 1978, are celebrating their 40th anniversary. Robert Smith has just curated the Southbank Centre’s Meltdown Festival where the band, under the guise of Cure-ation, brought out a set largely comprised of rarities. With full-stage visuals topped by surprisingly realistic fake plastic trees, the spectacle around the live stage action and lighting was a thing to behold in itself, as Smith played up to his gothy reputation by railing at the golden orb beaming down heat and light from above. They follow Goldfrapp’s example with a set which makes up for in tunes what it perhhaps lacks in spontaneity. Smith’s gloriously lyrical underdog romanticism is shown off with Pictures Of You, Lovesong and Why Can’t I Be You. A Night Like This is as emotionally cutting as ever and shows how Smith can convey desperation and longing with a rarely matched beauty.
There were some surprises. Burn, from the soundtrack toThe Crow, could be filed under unexpected. Push sees them in exultant stadium rock mode and From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea shows them to still be masters at portraying emotional turmoil. High is often overshadowed by its more popular album-mate Friday I’m In Love, but its early appearance in the set is a reminder of its sliding guitar melodies and lyrical charms.
Close To Me sees Smith in more relaxed mood, shedding his guitar to dance freely behind the microphone, but Inbetween Days straight into Just Like Heaven is a double guitar pop hit that most other bands would kill for. Fascination Street, one of six tracks played from Disintegration, still sounds like a door to a darker, heavier, more mysterious world, with A Forest’s spooky trees visuals enticing one further in to the spider’s web resplendent behind the band for Lullaby. The Caterpillar brought out lots of energy, while Friday I’m In Love – probably their most optimistic output – was greeted with euphoria.
A fantastic set-ending timewarp back to the Boys Don’t Cry album brought out 10:15 Saturday Night, Jumping Someone Else’s Train (with visuals from the cab of a speeeded-up train journey in the background) and an absolutely vital-sounding Killing An Arab. At 29 songs, this set was lengthy by the standards of most artists, if not by The Cure’s own – the band have regularly topped the three-hour mark in concerts – but it did a decent job of showcasing all their musical phases and underlined why they matter 40 years on from their inception. A celebratory spectacle with something for everyone, as eventual darkness descended the case was well made for The Cure returning to their public soon.
Additional reporting by Steven Johnson