The second single released from The Cure’s sophomore album Seventeen Seconds, ‘A Forest’ has become a fan favourite. And rightly so, it remains the beacon of The Cure’s roots before they became a worldwide hit and took over North America in the 1980s.
What better way to see this post-punk masterpiece performed than in a packed out Boston club then on their first trip across the pond. It sees Robert Smith and The Cure at the peak of their powers and the footage is simply stunning.
Shot in the April of 1980 at ‘The Underground’ aka 1110th Commonwealth Ave, in Allston Boston, a venue which, in a short space of time played host to some of the finest new wave acts of all time, such as New Order (only 4 months after the suicide of Ian Curtis had ended Joy Division) Bauhaus, Bush Tetras, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and more. An iconic venue with some of the finest post-punk credentials of all time.
The film sees the venue offer the stage to a band with a lot of credentials for such a young age (Robert Smith had only turned 21 that day) the British post-punk icons The Cure for the last stop of their first US tour. And the band gladly take them up on that offer and deliver a wonderful performance of a beautiful song.
The stylised video comes from the great filmmaker Jan Crocker and is a visually engaging piece of cinematography before you even get to its brilliant contents. Its use of colour and differing definition earns the accompaniment of the musical performance. Both are slightly subverted, dark and ultimately evocative, it’s a really joy.
Here’s more info from the video description: “Filmed with four Newvicon low-light black and white cameras and looped through a Shintron special effects generator, we were set up to switch the show live. The Shintron froze up during the opening set by Mission of Burma and [due to] MIT Engineer Terry Lockhart’s quick thinking and rapid fix, the cameras were looped threw a color encoder we had on board, and a single color RGB was assigned to three cameras with the fourth remaining black and white.
Thus the constant color effect you see in the video. I edited the original footage for a screening in Boston in 2010. Thanks go out to the MIT Film’Video Section and especially Benjamin Bergery who was a constant creative companion on several of the videos I produced at MIT.”
The song and performance match the film not only in style, something which would later define the band and their output but in technical theatricality. The opening moments of the song allows the synth to slowly build suspense which slowly grows and swells until the guitar kicks in the familiar riff. It marks out the band’s underlying power and their growing esteem.
As we see Smith’s commanding yet fragile performance, the driving post-punk rhythm, the affected synth work, and lovingly crafted lead guitar lines, we see the beginning of a band who would go on to offer thousands of people solace within their art.
Take a look at the beginning of something bigger.