Got a band? Had some hits? Then bloody well play them!

I went to see The Cure on Thursday at the 02 Arena in London (one of my least favourite venues, but that’s another story). It was a sold-out gig, with the stage at one end, which according to that Wikipedia link means that I was one of about 16,000 people.

The gig was in honour of their “Godlike Genius” award from the NME – given to them at an awards ceremony the previous night at Brixton Academy. According to Wikipedia, Brixton Academy has a maximum capacity of 4,921 – but I would guess that an awards ceremony would have been nearer to the all-seated capacity of 2,391.

So, two gigs in as many nights – one 30 minute set at Brixton, one 90 minute set at the O2. Here’s the set list for the 30 minute gig, performed to less than 5,000 people (taken from here):

  • ‘Lullaby’
  • ‘The Only One’
  • ‘Friday I’m In Love’
  • ‘Close To Me’
  • ‘The End Of The World’
  • ‘In Between Days’
  • ‘Just Like Heaven’
  • ‘Boys Don’t Cry’
  • ’10:15 Saturday Night’
  • ‘Killing An Arab’

Top 40 hits are shown in bold, top 20 hits in bold-italic. Looking at it that way, that’s a heck of a half-hour set list.

The set list for the 16,000 strong 90 minute set, with the same bold and italic coding (taken from here):

  • ‘Underneath The Stars’
  • ‘From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea’
  • ‘The Perfect Boy’
  • ‘The End Of The World’
  • ‘Sleep When I’m Dead’
  • ‘A Forest’
  • ‘Three Imaginary Boys’
  • ‘Shake Dog Shake’
  • ‘Maybe Someday’
  • ‘The Only One’
  • ‘In Between Days’
  • ‘Just Like Heaven’
  • ‘Primary’
  • ‘Want’
  • ‘The Hungry Ghost’
  • ‘Disintegration’
  • ‘One Hundred Years’
  • ‘Its Over’
  • ‘Boys Don’t Cry’
  • ‘Grinding Halt’
  • ‘10.15 Saturday Night’
  • ‘Killing An Arab’

Let me pull one little quote out of that NME report for you:

…Smith said he saw the two sets as linked, and having done some of their more famous tracks 24 hours earlier, he was keen to showcase some different areas of their career at the arena show.

Yeah, thanks for that Robert. I’m sure that the 16,000 people at the O2 Arena really appreciated you showcasing different areas of your career, rather than including a few more well-known hits, for more than £30 per ticket.

That was sarcasm, by the way, in case you hadn’t twigged.

This is my plea to bands and artists who have had some hit singles: play them. Yes, you might be bored with them by now, but that’s what a large contingent of your audience wants from a gig. That’s not to say that you can’t go off on an indulgent ramble of album tracks and “fan favourites”, but you should make sure that you provide a good mix with the well known numbers. For every hardcore fan in the audience, there will also be someone who only really knows you from your chart successes. Try to make your gig inclusive enough for both sets.

So, in short, here’s a quick list of things not to do at a gig, if you don’t mind:

  • Perform mostly album tracks and very few hits
  • Rub your audiences noses in it by telling them that you played a load of hits the previous night at a gig that they weren’t present at
  • Play the whole of your new album from start to finish, leaving too little time for your hits (Ash, I’m looking at you)
  • Play the opening lines, or the first verse of your hits, but rarely get as far as actually finishing any of them (Prince, at least on the night that I saw him)
  • Go off on some rambling, self-indulgent, stream-of-consciousness instrumental break that takes up half the gig (yes I mean you, Hawkwind)

P.S. For what it’s worth, I do own about half of The Cure’s albums, so recognised a fair number of the tracks they played. I still would have preferred a higher proportion of hits and well-known numbers though.

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