The Cure Were Alone in Space in Vancouver

Rogers Arena, June 2

Photo: Sharon Steele

BY Leslie Ken ChuPublished Jun 3, 2023

Astronauts frequently describe returning to Earth with a sense of profound despair. Viewed from a zoomed-out vantage point that engulfs this blue, green and brown marble in a cosmic black expanse, the troubles that humans create for ourselves seem so piddling. It was apropos, then, that the kings of despair, the Cure, took the stage with zero ceremony at Rogers Arena on Friday night as part of their Shows of a Lost World Tour. A gradually receding shot of Earth rotating in space played on the screen as the godfathers of goth slipped into "Alone," a languorous song from their allegedly forthcoming album after which the tour is named.

"Alone" set the tone for the first two thirds of the Cure's two-and-a-half-hour set, except it was the audience who remained languorous. The roiling tide of synth-powered "Closedown," the squealing guitar solo of "A Night Like This," the wrenching lightning flash rock of "Shake Dog Shake" and the quaking climax of "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea" all failed to elicit more than polite applause and head bobs from the mostly seated audience.

Worse yet were the audience's reception of new songs like "A Fragile Thing" and "Nothing Is Forever." To call it tepid would be an understatement – during the lengthy, grandiose jam of "Endsong," individuals milled up and down the aisles and headed out to the concourse. The slow-burn epic "I Can Never Say Goodbye" should have pinned audiences in place, but they were more absorbed in their phones than in the song's melancholy.

These stretches of confounding disinterest were punctuated by encouraging moments of vitality. Early set number "Pictures of You" was pure bliss. Phones came out for the right reasons for the spiky post-punk of "A Forest" – even the stoniest fans became animated, leaning forward in their seats, perched like a Gargoyle at the first hint of nightfall.

Whether or not by design, "Endsong" marked a turning point in the night. The Cure took a brief break offstage, and upon their return they finally began serving up some of their most timeless hits. Chimes wooed fans on the radiant "Plainsong,"  while "Disintegration" enraptured them the way the Cure's previous shimmering songs should have.

Two hours to the minute since the band nondescriptly walked onstage, they took their second break. From there, they hit an even higher gear, the gear everyone bought a ticket for. The Cure continued to unspool their string of crowd pleasers, with '80s chintz like the upbeat, keyboard-driven "Let's Go to Bed" and "The Walk." Memories of wedding days, high school dances, and retro club nights came flooding back with "Friday I'm in Love," "In Between Days," "Just Like Heaven," and "Boys Don't Cry." Despite its doom-laden lyrics, the trinkety "Close to Me" was as much indulgent pop fun as the Cure offered, and the single confectionary bop was enough to satisfy fans' sugary cravings.

Though the Cure didn't show much of their playful side, they were everything else fans have come to expect of them: capital "R" Romantic in their gloominess and despair, dripping with emotion like runny eyeliner, and above all, earnest. The Cure delivered textured soundscapes, swooping reverb-drenched anthems, pop bangers, and janky punk rock, all coated with a glamorous sheen.

For a band to sustain as the Cure have for 47 years, it needs to evolve. Their cascading live show was emblematic of their unwavering efforts to stay invigorated. Sometimes they fly into the stratosphere and reach oxygen-depleting highs, but sometimes they land on comfortable plateaus, as evidenced by the Vancouver fans' oft-lacklustre reactions.

Looking at the world from afar can make a person feel insignificant, but in the best-case scenario, they'll be inspired to appreciate every moment for what it is. The Cure's Vancouver performance was an important reminder that everyone at a show is a participant, and the experience is only what both the audience and performers make it together. Regardless of how fans reacted to most of the show, there was a bounty of moments to treasure. Even if not, the world keeps turning.

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