Last Night: The Cure at Toyota Center

The Cure at Toyota Center played songs from their catalog of over forty years.
The Cure at Toyota Center played songs from their catalog of over forty years. Photo by Violeta Alvarez
"How much more black could it be?" That line from the mock rockumentary This is Spinal Tap could just as easily been asked about the attire worn throughout the Toyota Center concourse on Friday night for The Cure.

This is, after all, the greatest and without question most successful Goth band of all time, so it makes sense that fans — young, old and plenty in between — would be sporting their best black gear (as would the band). But, despite the dark attire and the sounds of a thunderstorm rumbling through the speakers prior to the show in lieu of music (never heard that one before), the mood was quite the opposite.

Robert Smith, 64, the founder and frontman, seemed, at times, almost giddy, occasionally dancing and skipping around the stage like a man a third his age. Perhaps more impressively, his voice showed absolutely no wear whatsoever for someone who has been performing for over 40 years. His moody, affected vocals found every note and seemed to get stronger as the show, almost three hours long, rolled towards its ultimate conclusion.

What makes The Cure such a fascinating study in pop music is that they are often categorized simply as gothic pop, best known for the songs we've all heard a million times since the '80s. But, their catalog is dense and filled with surprises.

And they provided plenty of those for fans on this, just the second date on their U.S. tour. They mixed songs from their upcoming release Songs of a Lost World with a range of material going all the way back to their second record Seventeen Seconds. As expected, hits like "Lovesong," "Friday I'm in Love," "Boys Don't Cry," "Pictures of You" and "Just Like Heaven" were on the docket. But so were "Shake Dog Shake," "A Thousand Hours" and a powerful, psychedelic rock rendition of "A Forest" that felt like the show's peak.

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Guitarist Reeves Gabrels brought the rock to this goth pop show.
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Guitarist Reeves Gabrels, who joined the band a decade ago, energized the entire set with his rock and roll sensibility, honed from his days playing with David Bowie and others; and long-time bassist Simon Gallup, dressed like he just got done playing with The Clash, drove the grooves hard with his trademark melodic droning style. This may be Goth, but this Goth got a lotta guitars and they aren't shy about using them.

The Cure are known for their long, drawn out song intros, which are even longer live. Smith often drifted around the stage while the band vamped behind him. They ping-ponged back and forth between stretched, densely layered beds of music and short, tight pop songs. Yet, it didn't feel like whiplash. Instead, the pace was a slow burn, dropping in short energetic hits amongst the set to keep anyone from losing focus, even as they highlighted material that has yet to be released.

At one point just after a break, Smith joked, "If we were only doing 15 songs, you'd be like, 'What the fuck?' But we're not even halfway done." The 29-song set felt shorter and more compact than its two-hour-and-forty-five-minute length, even with most of the band remaining generally stationary throughout. The energy came from the music, not the "show," a refreshing approach for a mature band that felt as vital and relevant as ever.

This is a well oiled machine of talented, experienced musicians, led by Smith who was in complete command the entire night. Finally after the last song, Smith was left by himself in front of a roaring sold out audience. He slowly made his way to each section of the stage to acknowledge the fans. As he faded towards the back corner, he paused, soaking it all in and heaving a big sigh before disappearing into the darkness.

For all the sadness and loss he sings about in his immense catalog of material, it was clear he was overcome by the response. It was Friday, and this crowd was in love.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke