The Cure, like the Replacements, have had an immeasurable effect on my life. Once, I became a fan, I became obsessed. People often mistakenly state that the Cure’s music is depressing. I have never found the music actually makes me depressed. When the music reaches into depression, like on Pornography, it is really a catharsis experience for both Robert Smith and the listener. In other words, when people hear the Cure’s music as depressing, I hear it as hopeful. As someone who has dealt with anxiety issues and, more recently, chronic pain, along with the depression the comes with those conditions, the Cure has become a source of comfort for me. Plus, the Cure’s ability to delve into dark moods only makes their happy songs like “Friday I’m in Love” and “Mint Car” even more special.
I’ve seen The Cure three times before May 10, 2016. I saw them at UNO Lakefront Arena in 1992 on the wish tour, at the Saenger for the Bloodflowers tour, and in 2013 at Voodoo Fest. I’ve seen them play shows featuring their “hits” (they really haven’t had many songs place on the charts) and I’ve seen them play theme shows. Being that this was the first show of the tour, no one had a clue of what would be played. Over at Chain of Flowers, the best fan run site of the Cure (and his run by a guy from New Orleans), stated how exciting it was to go to a show and not have a clue of what will be playing. All Cure fans, the ones that know the hits and the obsessed, all have their own wish lists.
Well, I think for the first night, the show was skewed for the people who wanted deep cuts. After starting with Open and alt.end, they went deep into their catalog with “All I Want” from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. They hadn’t played this since the Kiss Me tour. It’s one of the songs that I always loved because of the odd imagery Smith uses in the song. In it, the narrator states “I want to hold your like a dog.” I, still after nearly 30 years, can’t tell if this is a line Smith intends to be menacing or sweet. They followed this with my all time favorite Cure song, “Push.” Push has a super long guitar intro and every time I hear it, I always wonder why Smith doesn’t get enough credit for being a great guitarist. While this isn’t virtuoso playing, this is an intricate layering of riffs that help set a mood of both urgency and wanting to slow down time. The song also features that type of singing that Smith, and only Smith, can utter. He still sounds the same. Considering that Smith’s voice is an essential instrument in the Cure, this is truly a gift. What is so great about “Push” is that it’s a pure pop song with heavier riffs than hair metal band of the 80s could muster, couple with very specifically ambiguous lyrics with Smith’s un-aging powerful voice.
The next section was a mixture of hits and new songs. And by new, one of them was performed live for the first time that night. It flowed seamlessly into the set. At the center of this run, were two of their 3 top charting songs. “Lovesong” is still a perfect wedding present of a song. “Just Like Heaven” is even better. It gets better with every listen. It’s so good, so perfect, it’s only peers, for me, are on Pet Sounds and Revolver. It alone, forget the near 4 decades of music, proves that The Cure belongs in the RockNRoll Hall of Fame. Now add, back all those other songs, and all the bands they influenced (you can hear the Cure in bands such as the Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, and Deafheaven…just to name a few), and you are left wondering how are they not in the Hall. On “Want”, The Cure again proved they are a great guitar band. These three songs, along, with two new songs, and “Burn” were the only songs they played both nights. On the second night during “Want“, a friend sent me a reading from a phone app of the decibel level which was in the red. This isn’t just a band that plays pretty mood music. While there is a Cure sound, that spectrum of sound is quite large.
For the fans that wanted to hear the hits (remember the cure had only three Top-40 hits in their entire career), I think it’s the encores that disappointed them. They were hits, but the hits from particular records. The first encore was from Seventeen Seconds and it was amazing. These songs sound as fresh as songs from 4:13 Dream. They also serve to remind people that the Cure were masters of creating an atmosphere in the first few notes of a song dating back to their second album. “Play for Today” was a special treat being it was the first time I ever heard it live. I sang along to the synthesizers like the crowd did on the ultimate Cure concert film The Cure in Orange. They closed that encore with “A Forest” which gets better every time I hear it. Another strength of The Cure is their use of the bass as a lead instrument. Smith often plays a six-string bass, but in quite a few songs, it’s Simon Gallup’s bass that drives the songs with the other instruments following his lead. This is particularly true with the “The Forest” especially at the end when it’s Gallup’s thumping that the crowd is clapping to instead of the beat.
The second encore consisted songs from The Top. The Top is The Cure’s strangest album in that there was no one there to really stop Smith from going to extremes. It seems their least edited album idea-wise. It’s not always an easy listen but it can be a rewarding listen. Of these tracks, “Piggy in the Mirror” was the one song I hadn’t heard yet. It’s the second song on the Orange film, a film I’ve watched/listened to about 100 times, so I reverted back to that high school/college student when they played it. I’m pretty sure I even did the dance moves Smith does in the film during the performance of the song.
There were two more one song encores. The first was Burn which is from The Crow soundtrack. The Cure first played it at Voodoo Fest in New Orleans in 2013 even though it’s a song from the 90s. The final song was a new song that they debuted called “It Can Never Be the Same.” If this song is any inclination of the new material they are working on, then I’m very much looking forward to the new album.
This wasn’t a perfect Cure show. Yes, I do wish they would sometimes play “Friday I’m in Love” or “Mint Car” instead of some of the darker numbers. They are perfect pure pop songs that are as difficult to write as their more atmospheric songs. Pure pop songs are just as much a strength of the Cure as the grand atmospheric songs are. There were also no songs from Faith or Bloodflowers, and only one from Disintegration.
But I still had another night to see them.