I’m going to level with you, stranger on the internet, because you deserve that much: I turn 40 this summer. I lead a sedentary professional life that revolves around the never-ending search for the perfect lumbar pillow. I am the father of twins on the verge of 3 years old, and thus I haven’t had a good night’s sleep or complete, coherent thought in same. My left eye has twitched since last November. All I ever want to do is lie down. There are orthotics in my shoes and a hot, burning spear in my vanity. I feel like I’ll never be cool or rested again. And yet, God help me, I still like going to live music. I’ve been doing it regularly since I was 14; for more than a decade there, I did it almost every night. I can’t or don’t want to give it up. Old and tired as I am, my spirit is still willing to buy advance tickets, even if my flesh usually just wants to blow it off.
You could map my physical deterioration (my Disintegration; ugh I hate myself) to shows by The Cure, actually, from my earliest, athletically drug-fueled attendances that were just preludes to staying up all night, doing more drugs; to my second-ever date with my now-wife, when we drove three hours on a whim just to go to one (When the hell did we ever have such energy?); to the most recent time we saw them in 2016—on our daughters’ second birthday, actually, where my exhausted wife and I stood in a crowded general admission pen, checking Setlist.Fm to guess at what songs were still coming up so we could identify the earliest possible moment we could leave without regret or feeling lame.
I say all this by way of expressing my gratitude that The Cure gets it: You shouldn’t have to stand through a long-ass show. You can sit down, the band recently averred, by way of refuting an announcement made by Royal Festival Hall—where Robert Smith is curating the Meltdown Festival this summer, booking other acts with similarly aging fanbases like My Bloody Valentine and Nine Inch Nails. “You are encouraged to stand at this gig,” the venue apparently announced, which spurred The Cure to get online and say, no, fuck that. There are seats there. You paid for them and, statistically speaking, you’re probably pushing 40 or well over it. So if you want to sit down, sit down. You’re gonna enjoy “This Twilight Garden” a lot more if you do.
As I get older and weaker, this is something I think and occasionally make crotchety proclamations about more and more. There have been lots of helpful suggestions for improving live music made of late, some more authoritarian than others: Shows should start earlier. Bands should only play for 20 minutes. Concerts should be replaced by Netflix. Music festivals should be outlawed, etc. I agree with some of them, let’s say. But the stigma around actually sitting down at a seated show is my own personal cross to bear upon my aching back. And anyone saying I have to stand instead, I would “encourage” them to go fuck themselves.
Quite involuntarily, every time I go to a show with seating, I find myself mentally replaying that ’90s Saturday Night Live skit where Chevy Chase plays an old guy who’s really happy he can sit down at a Van Morrison concert, only to have his view blocked by Melanie Hutsell, who insists on standing up and doing a dumb little dance. “At every show, the audience makes a collective decision to sit or stand, and we’ve all chosen to sit!” Chase says (or something like that), annoyed that Hutsell is going against the grain and “ruining” the show. I find myself saying that line to myself before the lights go down, agonizing over which way this groupthink is gonna go. Most of the time, I end up with perfectly good seats that I can’t use without getting an eyeful of ass, just because everyone unconsciously decides—like Royal Festival Hall—that sitting is somehow disrespectful to the performer, that we all have to stand in that awkward, narrow little space where the lip of the seat digs into the crook of your knees, bobbling your beer in your hand, otherwise the band’s feelings are going to get hurt.
Look, we’re all going to get up and dance to the big, rocking songs! We’ll do that for sure! Meanwhile, you’re not going to win Biggest Fan for standing through the whole set. (Everyone knows you win by singing along to every lyric, even the verses on the deep cuts.) And to protect the fragile egos of these artists we all just came out on a weeknight to see, we’ll even stand the whole way through the encore—even though you just exploited the good graces of our standing ovation by forcing us to keep standing there, playing along with the charade of wondering whether you’ll return.
But I’m not breaking my middle-aged-man’s back for your fucking ballads, man. Everybody sit down; it’s okay. The band won’t just assume we’re expressing our disapproval with the set list and suddenly stop playing to ask us what’s wrong. This unwritten social rule that we can’t actually use the seats we paid for is only being forced upon us only by our own insecurities—or, occasionally, by some asshole who’s issuing venue policies under the aegis of politely vague “encouragements,” until someone heroic who also loves to sit down, like The Cure’s Robert Smith, finally pushes back. This tyranny will not stand. We don’t have to either.