Thirty years into their career, alternative-rock titans The Cure are still going strong. Robert Smith’s latest version of his seminal band is a stripped-down four-piece, featuring long-time bassist Simon Gallup, Porl Thompson on guitar and drummer Jason Williams. They opened their North American tour May 9 at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, and it was quickly evident that they are still vital and in fact stronger than ever. Robert Smith may be pushing 50, but he still delivered a set in excess of 3 hours, with an incredible 38 songs performed.
The crowd was diverse, with younger fans brushing shoulders with 30- and 40-somethings who enthusiastically sang along with their old-school favorites. In years past at Cure shows, a goodly portion of the audience would be dressed in full Robert Smith regalia, but only a handful of folks dutifully decked out in black, mascara, lipstick and medusa hair for the event. Mr. Smith himself, however, was in full character form, with his trademark hair and makeup on full display.
The band opened at 9:00 p.m. with the sweeping “Plainsong” from “Disintegration” and didn’t stop until after midnight. They left few stones uncovered as they wound through their extensive discography with a mixture of hits, lesser-known album tracks, and new material from their upcoming album (as yet untitled) due in September. One song, “The Perfect Boy,” made its world premier.
Smith and company played stellar versions of some of The Cure’s most well-loved songs, including “Just Like Heaven,” “Love Song,” “Pictures of You” and “Boys Don’t Cry.” Diehard fans were also rewarded with album tracks and more obscure numbers like “To Wish Impossible Things,” “Push,” “A Strange Day” and “At Night.”
The band has never sounded better. Smith’s voice was in fine form as he wailed out epics like “Prayers for Rain” and the powerful “From The Edge of the Deep Green Sea.” Some of the best moments were the heavier rock tracks, like “Primary” and especially the seething anger of “Shake Dog Shake” and the doomsday drama of “One Hundred Years.” Porl Thompson really shined with swirling guitar on tracks like “Never Enough” and “alt.end,” and Jason Williams and Simon Gallup were a tight rhythm section all night. They closed the main set with a frantic and powerful version of “Disintegration.”
The first encore featured four tracks from their landmark “Seventeen Seconds” album, including a blistering version of the classic “A Forest,” which had many in the audience up on their feet dancing. The second encore was a collection of pop songs, including favorites like “Why Can’t I Be You,” “The Lovecats,” “Let’s Go To Bed” and “Close To Me.” The band concluded with an old-school encore of some of their earliest hits, performed with an incredible energy considering that they were nearing the end of a 3-hour marathon. Songs like “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” and “Killing an Arab” sound as vital and energetic now as they did upon their release almost 30 years ago.
The Cure have legions of fans, have sold millions of records worldwide and are going strong after 30 years, but somehow they always get overlooked by the “serious” music press. Why aren’t they in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Few bands have been as influential and as culturally significant as The Cure, and their uncanny ability to switch from euphoric pop songs to lengthy angst-ridden epics is unmatched by anybody. As they proved once again in Fairfax, The Cure is a musical force to be reckoned with.