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It’s Friday and I’m in love with The Cure

It’s Friday and I’m in love with The Cure

On Friday iconic goth pop alt rock legends The Cure played the first of two shows at the Bell Center and it was indeed a love fest! From start to finish the crowd showered the band with affection and it was very much reciprocated. The normally shy and enigmatic Robert Smith was all smiles as they delivered a mammoth set that clocked in at just less than 3 hours.

For a band known for being so gloomy they sure were having a lot of fun! Robert was very chatty, frequently talking to the crowd between songs in an adorable bubbly effervescent way. Although it was really hard to follow what he was saying! He even joked about how he was just rambling incoherently.

At 64 years old his singing voice was still as exquisite & expressive as ever, causing the audience to swoon repeatedly throughout the concert! The return of Perry Bamonte into the band as third guitarist & second keyboardist has freed Smith up to focus on vocals. For many of the songs he put down his guitar and danced all across the stage, connecting with each section of the audience.

Robert Smith. Photo by Mini’s Memories.

The set list was everything one could have hoped for, covering the entire span all the way back to 1979. It was a great blend of their hits alongside deep cuts from the earlier albums. They mainly stuck to songs from The Head on the Door (A Night Like This, Kyoto Song, Inbetween Days, Close To Me, Six Different Ways, Push) and Disintegration (Lovesong, Lullabye, Plainsong, Pictures of You, Disintegration).

They threw in some rarities like At Night and Play For Today from Seventeen Seconds, Shake Dog Shake from The Top and the title track of their debut album Three Imaginary Boys. As well as classics like Boys Don’t Cry, Just Like Heaven, Why Can’t I Be You, Friday I’m in Love, A Forest, The Walk, From The Edge of the Deep Green Sea and the song Burn from the soundtrack to the film The Crow.

The new songs were surprisingly great! A very impressive feat for a band that has been around for so long. The song that really stood out is I Can Never Say Goodbye with its haunting lyrics about “Something wicked this way comes“. It certainly shows that this band still has some great tunes left in them. Ultimately it’s just astonishing what an amazing & diverse back catalogue they have. After a three hour performance there were easily at least 20 more songs that I would have loved to hear.

Simon Gallup. Photo by Chris Springer

Simon Gallup still has the rockabilly look he was sporting last time they played in Montreal. He is looking lean and ripped. The secret ingredient to the Cure’s unique sound has always been the interplay between Simon’s melodic bass lines and Robert’s noodling with trippy guitar tones drenched in flanger & chorus effects. Seeing them live truly allows us to appreciate the phenomenal bass lines Simon has created.

Keyboardist Roger O’Donnell delivered as he always does. Lush atmospheric synth pads that break your heart on the sad songs. Perfectly contrasted with the catchiest & quirkiest melodies on the upbeat happy songs. Drummer Jason Cooper played with a lot more power than I remembered seeing him deliver in the past. He had a very energetic and complex polyrhythmic style.

Reeves Gabrels & Robert Smith. Photo by Mauro Melis

Lead guitarist Reeves Gabrels is something of an enigma. He is one of those progressive rock virtuoso guitarists like Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew. But what sets him apart is his unique guitar tone and unorthodox experimental style. He was a perfect fit when he was playing with David Bowie, an artist who thrives on conceptual experimentation.

I have to confess to having my doubts as to how his style would mesh with The Cure’s anti-guitar hero aesthetic. They aren’t a band whose songs need a blazing guitar solo. They are more about a layered wall of harmonious sounds. The last time I saw Reeves perform with the Cure in 2016 I found his solos a bit hit and miss. Stylistically it didn’t always fit, sometimes they were a bit of a distraction.

But hey maybe that’s just me and my pre-emptive knee jerk reaction against prog rock guitar wankery. However this time, I really enjoyed all his solos. I found them tastefully brief, working in service to the song. And goddamn does he ever have some sonic textures and innovative techniques!

The light show was stunning, a lush palette of colors perfectly complemented by video projections that emphasized the themes of songs like Friday I’m in Love, A Forest and the spider web nightmare of Lullabye.

The band was a tight well oiled machine. No joke they played for two hours and 45 minutes with two very brief breaks that lasted maybe three minutes each. A lot of bands cut their sets short and mail it in when they are performing back to back shows in the same city. But the Cure are notorious for playing long sets and giving their all to their fans.

The Spider Man is having me for dinner tonight. Lights and video projections for the song Lullabye. Photo by Giada Barbieri

There is something so special about the relationship between this band and their fans. Their music is deeply sad & melancholic but in a beautifully cathartic way. Sadness that is somehow uplifting due to the perfectly crafted pop hooks. It’s like the goth equivalent of Bossa Nova: a happy yet nostalgic sadness for the present moment as it fades away forever.

Every Cure fan has that one song that hits them right in the feels and gets them a little choked up. For me it has always been “Plainsong“. When they played it tonight and the tears started flowing, I looked around the stadium at all the entranced faces and marvelled at how many people were feeling the same way as I was.

Then I thought about all the cities in all the countries The Cure performed in for the last 44 years. Millions and millions of fans whose lives have been deeply enriched by the beautiful melodies, the plaintive raw emotion in Robert Smith’s voice and his unique songwriting style. The soundtrack to all their heartbreaks, from their first loves as teenagers, to doomed long distance relationships, to bitter divorces.

But what makes it so special is how their music is equally at home during all the happy festive celebrations, the milestones, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries etc… No band has ever captured so succinctly the yin & yang balance of happy to sad. All those moments of love, loss, smiles and tears. The lyrics from Plainsong perfectly encompass this duality :

I think it’s dark and it looks like rain, you saidAnd the wind is blowingLike it’s the end of the world, you saidAnd it’s so cold, it’s like the cold if you were deadThen you smiled for a second.”

My love affair with the Cure began in 1986. I was 12 years old and my older sister bought their latest album The Head on the Door on cassette. A week later we went on a family trip to Mexico. It was my first time on a plane, first time going somewhere tropical. I promptly nicked the cassette off my sister and spent the week obsessively listening to the album on my walkman. It had a very deep effect on me.

To this day when I unexpectedly hear a deep cut from that album, my senses are suddenly overwhelmed with the tropical scent of Mexico! I can smell the Caribbean Sea, the lush aroma of the blooming bougainvillea flowers, the zesty odour of freshly caught Huachinango Veracruzana smothered in garlic frying in a pan in an open air restaurant on the beach.

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The following year The Cure released the KISS ME album. Despite my frantic teenage pleading my parents did not feel that it was appropriate for a 13 year old to go see them in concert. Especially after seeing the posters on my wall with their massive teased hair and freakish goth makeup!

The infamous Head on the Door poster I had on my wall

Fast forward two years to 1989 when Disintegration came out. Which to this day remains my favorite album of all time. There was no way in hell that anyone was going to stop me from going to see them perform! It was my first concert and they blew my mind! I still vividly remember the stage design, it looked like a scene from a post apocalyptic landscape. Like some kind of ancient aircraft hanger that had been neglected for over 100 years. The towers lit up with green lasers synchronized to the bass rhythm of “A Forest“. As an added bonus two days later I saw The Pixies with Love & Rockets perform at La Ronde. What an eventful time this was for my 15 year old self!

All this to say, seeing the Cure again on Friday was a magical experience. I reconnected with so many old friends, reconnected with the music of my teenage years, reconnected with myself. Such powerful music that affected so many lives. It’s Friday and I’m in love with Robert Smith. Thanks for the gift of your music. And thanks for saving the world from Barbara Streisand!

In closing, I leave you with the wise words of Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Who gave the most brilliantly poetic speech when inducting The Cure into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. No one else has so eloquently expressed the impact of this unique band….

Which contrasts perfectly with this video of Robert Smith’s hilariously honest reaction on the red carpet to all the accolades & the trappings of fame!

Friday night’s concert was sold out but there are still some tickets available for the Cure’s second show tonight at the Bell Center. What better way to spend your Saturday night?

The Cure
With The Twlight Sad
Friday June 16 & Saturday June 17
Doors open at 18:30
Show starts at 19:30

At the Bell Center
1909 Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal
Montreal, QC

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