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See The Cure's frenetic performance of post-punk gem 'Play For Today' from 1980


We’re digging into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a special performance of one of The Cure’s forgotten gems, the Seventeen Seconds track ‘Play For Today’. We revisit their performance of the song while out in Holland at the Berg en Bos Festival back in 1980.

Before The Cure became chart-topping icons of the 1980s, they had spent much of the previous decade in the murky waters of the London punk scene. It was part of what gave the band their steely resolve, the ability to sink a pint, and most importantly, their frenetic performance style.

Later in the decade, The Cure would be one of the very artists in rock and roll to create their own sub-genre. The band were the make-up wearing champions of goth rock and became the faces of an alternative rock scene in the ’80s on both sides of the pond. That said, when the group released their debut Three Imaginary Boys in 1979, the sound was a far pacier and menacing affair.

The album’s tracks were still pop songs at their core. However, they were charged with the tail-end of punk’s attitude and were quick on the draw. By the time the group released their second album, Seventeen Seconds, The Cure had refined their post-punk sound and were beginning to lay the foundations of their trajectory.

Seventeen Seconds holds some of the band’s most notable work from their early period. As they moved into their gothic phase and commercial success beckoning from around the corner, the album featured heavily charged tracks like ‘Killing An Arab’ and ‘A Forest’, two of the band’s finest post-punk works—but the record also features ‘Play For Today’ an often forgotten gem.

The song represents the crossroads between their past and their future and is at the apex of their eventual iconography. It’s no better summed up than in this performance at Berg en Bos Festival, Apeldoorn, in the Netherlands from 1980 where Smith and the band let rip.

Taking place on 18th July 1980, the group were firmly on the promotion trail and delivered a set littered with tracks from the album. Despite having a set full of hits, they closed out the performance (in this video at least) with the second song on the record, the fiery ‘Play For Today’.

Smith is utterly captivating as he delivers his now-famous vocal, all while backed by metronomic drums and the devilish Simon Gallup bassline that underpinned everything the band did at the time. It’s a wonderful performance of a defining song and marks The Cure out like the legends they’re now known to be.

Watch The Cure perform ‘Play For Today’ live in Apeldoorn at the 1980 Berg en Bos Festival.

The Cure Berg en Bos Festival Setlist:

  • ‘In Your House’
  • ‘M’
  • ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’
  • ‘Another Journey By Train’
  • ‘A Forest’
  • ‘A Reflection’
  • ‘Play For Today’