The Cure at Wembley Arena 01/12/16

The below review was published by The Upcoming, and is available there at http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2016/12/02/the-cure-at-wembley-arena-live-review/

the-cure

Some might doubt the stadium credentials of a band so associated with angsty teenage loneliness as The Cure. Can the personal and intimate connection to fans nurtured in millions of individual bedrooms translate to a crowd comprising tens of thousands?

Under Wembley Arena’s cavernous roof tonight, such concerns initially seem justified. Opener Out of this World, its droning intro issuing forth from an empty stage, seems a laconically misguided first step, failing to catch fire even as the black-clad heroes of the hour appear to rapturous applause. The show gets right on track immediately afterwards, however. With the trademark hook-laden synth-rock of Pictures of You, the veteran band begin to underline both the enormous songbook of hits they’ve built up over the course of a 40-year career, and a precision in performance honed during more than 70 dates that have preceded this one on a world tour celebrating that landmark.

The backcombed hair and heavy-handed approach to makeup that made him a cultural idol are no doubt a help, but Robert Smith gives no hint that he’s approaching 60. Rolling back the years with soaring, yearning vocals and uniquely fey stage presence, he leads masterful renditions of classics such as Lovesong and In Between Days (with no hint of irony as he belts out “Yesterday I got so old, I felt like I could die”.), holding the sell-out crowd in the palm of his hand.

While Smith is the only remaining founding member of The Cure, those around him still bring decades of experience to bear. Reeves Gabrels’s intricate effects-laden guitar lines weave beautifully with the frontman’s own rhythms, particularly on cuts from the group’s grungier 90s catalogue, such as From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea. Simon Gallup, with a frenetic punk presence slightly at odds with the understated calm of his bandmates, lays down bass lines that fill the room to the roof (and, in the case of A Forest, threaten to take it off).

No fewer than three encores crown a mammoth set, and provide the adoring masses the opportunity for joyous dancing to hits such as The Lovecats, Friday I’m in Love, and Boys Don’t Cry. Happy, sweaty, tired, those in attendance left having witnessed not only a true icon of British rock history, but also one of the best live acts on tour in 2016.

Verdict: 5 stars

Film Review: An Insignificant Man

The below review was published by The Upcoming, and is available there at http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2016/10/16/london-film-festival-2016-an-insignificant-man-review/ 

an-insignificant-man

With Britain electing to leave the EU by a narrow majority and America soon to be presented with the option of voting for Donald Trump to be their president, there’s a sense that the western world has entered a new era of starkly polarising politics. An Insignificant Man, a powerful new documentary from writing/directing duo Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla, suggests that the political landscape of India has become a battleground divided along lines of equally fundamental discord.

The film charts the rise of anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal, founder of the newly-formed Aam Aadmi party (English translation: Common Man’s party), and rank-outsider challenger in the 2013 assembly elections for the Indian capital of Delhi. Though he’s fiercely opposed by opponents invested in a status quo so amoral as to openly bribe impoverished voters with cash and booze, the charismatic but humble Kejriwal soon becomes an unlikely champion to a disenfranchised people.

While the many parallels between Kejriwal’s ascent and that of socialist contemporaries such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn will provide a touchstone for western audiences, An Insignificant Man also acts as a primer on the unique social climate in the world’s second most populous nation. Of particular influence is the ancient “caste system”; given legal credence during colonisation by the British, it remains the basis for widespread prejudice and subjugation of the poor majority, 60 years on from independence. Incumbent in the role to which Kejriwal aspires, the Congress party’s Sheila Dikshit embodies the sneeringly elitist establishment with a near-pantomime degree of malevolence: in one pre-election interview, she asks “what is his status?” – freely dismissing her challenger.

A markedly candid style ensures the tone of the movie remains vivid and vital, never descending into the realms of the fusty social history lesson. With no voice-over or cutaway explanatory graphics, the only contextual information is presented via snippets of genuine news bulletins that intersect the footage in direct response to the issues raised on Kejriwal’s campaign trail. This real-time approach ensures the tempo of conflict, intrigue, and drama continues to build right up to the ever-approaching climax of the Delhi electorate’s date with destiny.

Serving both as a window into a compelling relevant mass political awakening and as an example of white-knuckle narrative structure, An Insignificant Man is a masterful example of the art of documentary.  

Stuart Boyland