18 June 2018 (gig)
18 June 2018
One of the most remarkable aspects of a life lived in London is experiencing a phenomenon like Meltdown. The very idea that the idols of whom you grew up in greasy-faced adoration, now jostle for the chance to curate a bespoke festival on the Southbank each year, distilling everything they’ve ever loved about their day job into two weeks’ worth of shows, would have been unthinkable way back when. It feels like the city is finally paying you back for all the sweating on the tube and the shocking bills and the existential miasma.
In its 25th year, Robert Smith of The Cure has conjured a line-up of daunting proportions – if money were no object, one would buy a ticket to the whole thing and pitch a tent by the river. However, my policy is either to plump for the act that hasn’t sang a note in public for decades (everyone I ever mention Meltdown to, always talks about Elizabeth Fraser’s performance back in 2012, whether they made it or not), or go see someone you’ve never seen before – and learn. And so it was, watching the Furs, as they are known to all who love them, on Friday night.
It’s a strange experience to finally put faces to names that have been playing in the background most of your life. But not for the faithful crowd thronging the Royal Festival Hall, for whom this evening is a moment of great euphoria to be reunited with the soundtrack of their lives. Their enthusiasm only manages to keep them seated for the first few songs, and then there is a sudden rush to get as close to the stage as possible, and dance and sway in the aisles to hits like The Ghost in You and Heartbreak Beat. Most songs are recognised within the first couple of drumbeats. The sound is big and rich, with fantastic bass, the familiar jangling guitars and augmented by nostalgic synth and some bravura saxophone playing.
The Furs have been doing this for forty years this year, and they seem undimmed and undaunted by the passage of time. Richard Butler is warmly and wildly gesticulating throughout, inviting us all to reconnect with their wonky melodies and all those lovesick feelings of yore. When they play Love My Way, which recently featured on Sufjan Steven’s immaculate soundtrack for Call Me By Your Name, I too suddenly want to flail my arms, drunk as a skunk in a back street in Bergamo, listening to a car radio, feeling unencumbered and romantic. They say you should never meet your idols, but in this instance, a little proximity is a wonderful thing.