Robert Smith’s Meltdown: opening weekend recap

Monday, June 18, 2018 - 17:46

The long wait is finally over. Robert Smith’s Meltdown landed emphatically at Southbank Centre on Friday 15 June with a string of powerful performances, across four stages, that continued into the early hours of the morning. To help us recap on a wonderful weekend of live music we’ve pulled together some of your best photos, tweets and more from three thunderous days.

The 25th Meltdown festival got underway on Friday afternoon in the company of BBC 6 Music. Steve Lamacq took up residency on Royal Festival Hall’s fifth floor balcony to deliver a special Meltdown focussed edition of his afternoon show. The DJ was joined by a number of performers from the festival, as well as our own Senior Programmers, Bengi Unsal and Gillian Moore.


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Whilst some of our staff were taking over the airwaves, others were busy readying Royal Festival Hall for the first of ten days’ worth of incredible live music. As you can see, it takes a fair amount of kit and cases to make these shows happen.


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Once the stage was set, first to take to it and really get Robert Smith’s Meltdown underway were Australian psychedelic rock band, The Church - offering those on the front row a close-up look at their set list.


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First to headline Royal Festival Hall were punk favourites The Psychedelic Furs who went down a storm with the packed audience; especially those who made it down to the front.


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Both The Psychedelic Furs and The Church are on top form, giving us a very special and memorable performance spanning decades
Selina Begum, The Upcoming

Over in our brutalist buildings there were five other acts vying for the attention of our Meltdown audience. Whilst Tropic of Cancer and 65daysofstatic took to the Queen Elizabeth Hall stage, Italian trio JoyCut, supported by The Indian Queens, were making friends in Purcell Room with their distinctive atmospheric sound.

Our late-night Concrete Lates series has a string of special performances lined up as part of Meltdown festival and first to bring their beats to our iconic Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer was Kiasmos’ delirious DJ set.

On Saturday things got underway much earlier as we welcomed a wealth of new talent to our outdoor stage on Riverside Terrace. The best of London’s buskers — including Karina Ramage, below — hand-picked by Robert Smith, took turns to draw in the passing crowds with some very personal performances.


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Come Saturday night it was the turn of alt-rock favourites Placebo to pack out Royal Festival Hall and render our seats pretty much useless, with the joyous crowds on their feet throughout.

For me, there’s two types of musical heroes. The ones who die young, and the ones who’ll make music till they die. Placebo are the latter, and these are the kind of gigs that convince old-bands to write new material.
Nicoletta Wylde, Drowned in Sound

As with Friday, our Royal Festival Hall headliners were just one of seven acts strutting and strumming their stuff across our stages. In Purcell Room Tropic of Cancer were back, this time supporting Jambinai. The Korean post-rock group certainly established a relationship with their audience, as the photo below shows.

In Queen Elizabeth Hall The Notwist joined us from Germany to deliver their own blend of indie rock and electronica. A really atmospheric gig, deftly captured by John Vincent on Instagram.


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Last but not least to get Southbank Centre’s Saturday night audiences on their feet were Vessels, the post-rock turned electronic five-piece collective from Leeds. The group took over Concrete Lates to deliver a special live performance and DJ set in Queen Elizabeth Hall.


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Onto Sunday then and a Royal Festival Hall debut for the up and coming Brighton-based band YONAKA, whose lead-singer Theresa Jarvis spoke to us about the band’s music.

YONAKA | Robert Smith's Meltdown

Former John Peel favourites Loop headlines Purcell Room on Sunday night, performing in front of arguably the most stunning visuals to have graced the venue since it’s reopening.

Not to be outdone, nextdoor in Queen Elizabeth Hall, Alcest, the blackgaze band from the Occitanie région of France, founded and led by Neige, were delivering an emphatic set of their own to a passionate crowd.


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‘Will most likely be late’ read the production notes for The Libertines’ Sunday headline set in Royal Festival Hall, but Pete Doherty and his band delivered a performance worth waiting for, regardless of whether you’d been waiting a few weeks to see them or over a decade.

This one-off gig for Robert Smith’s Meltdown was full of affection, brotherhood and an almost inherent musical understanding of one another – features that have come to define their legacy
Jake Cudsi, The Upcoming, in review of The Libertines

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The gig proved a great finale to a packed opening weekend of performances. Hard to believe there are still seven more days of the festival to go.


Meltdown festival is just one aspect of our live contemporary music programme here at Southbank Centre. We have gigs, performances and late night DJ sets throughout the year.

see upcoming gigs