August 17, 2007


Filed under: Archive,Music

The Cure
Adelaide Entertainment Centre
August 6.

Reviewed by Murray Bramwell

With his back-combed black thatch, his scarlet lipstick and his dark drecky outfits, Robert Smith, founder and undisputed leader of The Cure, has been the Edward Scissorhands of pop music for the best part of thirty years. In that time he, and various permutations of his band, have produced more than twenty albums and an enviable list of boppy, instantly appealing singles. This has created two tiers of loyal fans – those fond of the catchy radio hits and those who favour the extended prog-rock excursions which have characterised later albums such as Bloodflowers and Trilogy, the DVD of the epic Berlin concerts in 2002.

When The Cure last toured here in late 2000 there were strong indications it would be Robert Smith’s last hurrah. Back then, we were told, it was only after plaintive petitions from fans that he had agreed to tour at all, let alone leave his house long enough to visit the Antipodes. But now, something has shifted for Mr Smith – he has been touring copiously in recent years and the current visit comes off one of the most extensive list of concert dates yet.

Certainly there are signs of rejuvenation – or perhaps (much the same thing) a return to basics. The Cure began as a trio and became a quintet. At present they are a quartet – with guitarist Porl Thompson returning to the fold for the first time since the early 90s. Bassist Simon Gallup remains in the line-up, but absent for the moment are long-time multi-instrumentalist Perry Bamonte and keyboard player Roger O’Donnell – and with them have gone the expanded synth washes and tinkling piano fills which have more recently counterbalanced the familiar Cure trademark.

After all, The Cure sound is as distinctive as it is undifferentiated. Over Jason Cooper’s metronomic drumming come those high bendy lead bass lines, and Smith’s oddly febrile vocals. Listening to them now, the early songs are clearly part of the power pop sound of 1980- and yet that voice, and that nervy, bony bass, have endured for another twenty five years of musical invention.

It is those lively early Eighties beginnings that dominate the thirty five item setlist for the current show. After a burst of stage fog and some noodling ambient atmospherics, the band takes the stage – Gallup hunched like a scrawny whippet over his low-slung bass, Thompson coolly detached, and Smith, as self-conscious as ever, lolling about the stage in head-to-foot black like a smudged and sooty version of Paddington Bear. But the likeable indolence is deceptive. Robert Smith sings and performs note perfect, and in complete command, for the best part of three hours.

The opening lines of Fascination Street have the swarm of fans in the general admission section in rapture. The selections are a mix – A Night Like This and The Walk, several from the most recent album, then a terrific cluster from Disintegration – Lovesong, Pictures of You and Lullaby. Cooper’s drumming is relentless, and Thompson peels chords off his guitar like ribbons of hot metal. It is a monstrously loud sound, but also a revelation as Smith’s voice climbs over a roiling sound of bass and distressed guitar.

The singles appear with greater rapidity – Never Enough, The Kiss, Friday I’m in Love, performed with freshness, energy and flair. And after the main set concludes with One Hundred Years, the encores are peppered with more early stuff – Let’s Go to Bed and Close to Me – before spiralling back to the very beginning with five from Three Imaginary Boys. The band closes with Killing an Arab, its Meursault theme now with a different kind of political currency.

The Cure have played themselves – and us – to a standstill. For me, though, the highpoint is the splendidly murky meandering in From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea. I’m sorry that there’s nothing from Bloodflowers – not a skerrick, not a petal, not a corpuscle. But that’s the way it is. This time the Fenders, next time the Korgs and Wurlitzers. And, judging by the almost-perceptible spring in his step, this will not be the last we see of Robert Smith and his mercurial band.

“Single-minded” The Adelaide Review, No.323, August 17, 2007, p.28.

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