The Cure, Agannis Arena, May 12, 2008
Okay, let’s get it out of the way first: Robert Smith is almost 50 years old and looks like Leslie West in pajamas and harlequin make-up. Long-time Cure vet guitarist Porl Thompson, decked out in patent-leather bondage wear, heels, and ridiculous make-up, looks like a blacklit corner of Man Ray circa 1990. Blah blah blah. So what. The sheer size of the Cure’s three-plus-hour set a week ago Monday (36 songs spanning a 30-year catalogue with a smattering of new tunes from a to-be-released album #13) would, in the hands of a lesser band, be plain gluttonous indulgence. In the hands of Mr. Smith and his crew, it was a chance to unleash a musical force that is voracious and darkly powerful. Witnessing it was like an inexplicably uplifting trip through a never-ending black hole.
The current Cure are synth-less, and the stripped-down set-up displayed both Smith’s underappreciated guitar majesty and the strength of his singular voice. His rafter-shaking wail in the middle of “Prayers for Rain” proved that he has lost none of his power.
There was a minimum of talk or fuss between songs: the Cure came to play songs, a lot of songs, and play them really fucking well. The set was paced to separate their discography into discrete blocks. The first third focused on 1989’s Cure-goes-Top-40 masterpiece, Disintegration (though no “Fascination Street”!); then we got newer material from their upcoming record and ’04’s The Cure. Three encores: a smattering of poppier late-’80s hits like “Close to Me” and “Why Can’t I Be You”; a long spacy jam on 1980’s “A Forest”; and, in a fan-pleasing gesture, a quintet of tunes from their ’79 debut, Boys Don’t Cry. From a group who’ve always been tagged as mopy and depressive, this show displayed force-of-nature levels of power and endurance.
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