With the Cure touring over 70 songs, and each individual show's set list totalling 30-something of them, no one knows exactly what they're going to get on this late-career tour.
The only tracks heard consistently from night-to-night are two of their all-time highest charting stateside singles: "Lovesong" and "Just like Heaven." Otherwise, they've been drawing heavily from the albums Disintegration, The Head on the Door and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, and often playing "Burn" from The Crow soundtrack and two new songs: "Step into the Light" and "It Can Never Be the Same." Deer Lake Park didn't receive the latter last night (May 31), but they got everything else and more.
It was a bit of an odd setting in which to see the Cure. Everyone and everything was brightly lit as the day burned off its golden hour, their set starting at 7 p.m. to accommodate their three-hour marathon before the venue's hard 10 p.m. curfew. After performing "Trust," frontman Robert Smith expressed amusement at the visibility, saying he prefers to hide in the stage lights (while his fans likely preferred to hide in the dark), so he found that playing this show was rather funny — like singing to himself in his back garden. That moment was the first time he acknowledged the crowd, almost a half-hour into their set, and it marked a turning point.
For the first five songs, leading up to "Trust," they felt like a band of wallflowers made inerrably aware that people were watching them dance. How do you perform "A Night Like This" seriously at dinnertime on a bright, humid day? Yet, as soon as the air was cleared, a sense of relief seemed to wash over the Cure, and they really started playing.
Of guitarist Reeves Gabrels, a long-time David Bowie collaborator who has been with the band since 2012, drummer Jason Cooper, a mainstay since '95, and keyboardist Roger O'Donnell, who has been in the band off-and-on since '87, none of them really stood out, performance-wise. Only rockabilly bassist Simon Gallup, the second longest serving member after Smith since 1979, stole some of the attention, selling his epochal riffs the whole set thanks to his incessant strutting and the occasional putting up of his feet on the monitors and drum riser. Yet, when the songs and the feelings came together, the band were transcendent.
The years melted away for their rendition of "Screw" from The Head on the Door. Smith's voice twisted his plaintive poetry into a liquid, artsy falsetto, and his hands mimed their awkward, Scissorhandian gestures. Smith announced "Like Cockatoos" from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me as being something unusual; they don't often break that one out in sets these days, but they probably should. It's one of the most compelling testaments to their mad genius.
Ultimately, they seemed to keep picking up steam as they went along. Granted, three encores may seem a little self-indulgent to an outsider, but in a year full of loss, no one should be complaining about that sort of thing from Robert Smith and company — the man is an icon. His hairstyle helped inspire the look of Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands and Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, and his music helped inspire Robbie Hart to write "Somebody Kill Me" in The Wedding Singer (not to mention actual musicians like Interpol and the Smashing Pumpkins).
Many have claimed to be, but he really was the voice of a generation. The Cure's music has lived with millions of people for most of their lives, complementing and/or making survivable a myriad of significant personal moments, and the band did those songs service live.
The Cure have consistently made diverse yet distinctive and ever challenging music that blurs the line between high art and pop for decades, a legacy rivalled only by the likes of David Bowie and the Talking Heads. Importantly, though their influence reaches far across time and genre, they aren't phoning it in now. They gave their fans in BC hours of fond reminiscences and new memories for about the same per-song cost as buying it from the iTunes store, and paid for it themselves with time, sweat and palpable emotion.