May 14, 2016
The main thrust of any concert review should give the reader a general impression of the show in question, as well as provide some indication of how much the reviewer — if not the rest of the audience — enjoyed it. To that point, the Cure came to Houston Saturday night and, for more than three hours, sonically leveled the Toyota Center, putting this show on the short list of best concerts of the year.
Of course, starting off with "It was awesome, we're out" might seem a bit perfunctory, but "one of the best concerts of the year" pretty much puts it all out there.
Was anybody surprised? The last time Robert Smith and company came to town was eight years ago (also at the Toyota Center); then as now they played a lengthy set, but for whatever reason, the anticipation didn't feel as deep. This time around, the band also plumbed the depths of their catalog, pulling tracks from nearly every one of their albums and dropping two new ones, "It Can Never Be the Same" and "Step Into the Light," leading to hopeful speculation for the first new Cure album since 2008's 4:13 Dream.
Sure, Smith isn't a young guy (he's 57), and even during the band's '80s heyday, he wasn't known for excessive energy (I think the most animated we saw him was dancing like a goof in the video for "Just Like Heaven"). Then again, you don't need to sprint across a catwalk or dive into the crowd to create thunderous aural landscapes. Smith never wandered far from stage center, and the entirety of his banter consisted of "We haven't played this in a while" (before "The Last Day of Summer" from Bloodflowers) and a few "thank you"s during the show's numerous climactic moments.
Smith took the stage with longtime members Simon Gallup (bass) and Jason Cooper (drums), returning keyboardist Roger O'Donnell, and relative newcomer/former David Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels. And from the quality of the show, the band might as well have stepped out of a wormhole from 1989. The performances were stellar (Gabrels especially stood out), and loud AF, as the kids say. Creepy videos and hairspray jokes aside, people tend to forget just how goddamned noisy they can be.
If you're a Cure fan, it's hard to imagine you came away in any way disappointed. Is Disintegration your favorite album (a popular choice)? They played four songs from it, including "Fascination Street" and "Pictures of You." Perhaps you're more discerning, and prefer The Head on the Door (like me)? Boom: four songs, including the fantastic one-two punch of "Push" and "In Between Days." They also pulled "The Lovecats" out for the first time this tour, and went four-deep on two other albums, 1980's Seventeen Seconds (hearing "A Forest" live is not to be missed) and 1992's Wish.
Did it at times feel like a greatest-hits compilation? Perhaps, but three hours and 30 years of material will occasionally yield such results. Considering the new cuts and the fact the band still plays more recent material, I'm not sure that's a valid complaint. At the very least, the Toyota Center crowd couldn't have possibly cared less. They spent almost the entire show on their feet, no small accomplishment given the negative effects of spending your salad days dropping ecstasy and smoking clove cigarettes.
This has ultimately been a fairly long-winded way of saying the Cure played a superlative show, and one nobody in attendance will soon forget. Smith and the rest of the band simultaneously tore the roof off the Toyota Center and did their best to connect with each fan, no matter their favorite era. Maybe it's because they remained active across several decades, or because they never really went away and allowed the nostalgia engine to fully fire up, but at times the Cure has felt like a niche preference or afterthought. That said, there shouldn't be any doubters left after Saturday.
Personal Bias: The Head On the Door was the album that got me through my first all-nighter, and I still spin it semi-regularly.
The Crowd: Much less pancake makeup than I'd have assumed. Granted, it's a bitch to scrub off.
Overheard In the Crowd: "The guitarist looks like Bernie Sanders."
Random Notebook Dump: "I wish I had some clove cigarettes."
A Night Like This
Pictures of You
A Strange Day
In Between Days
Just Like Heaven
The Last Day of Summer
Play for Today
Shake Dog Shake
The Hungry Ghost
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
One Hundred Years
It Can Never Be the Same
Step Into the Light
Close to Me
Let's Go to Bed
Why Can't I Be You?
Boys Don't Cry