Robert Smith’s merry band of black-clad pranksters, The Cure, will be here mid-year, at the Vivid Live festival, to recreate the 1989 album Disintegration. Sound familiar? Yes, The Cure were here eight years ago to do something similar, in that case playing their first three albums.
Did it work – more than 30 years, a dozen iterations and countless badly applied lipsticks later? Actually, mostly yes. Will it work again? Ah, who knows. Maybe this 2011 review will have some pointers to what could be done, and possibly what should not be done
Sydney Opera Housel, May 31
What's not to like?
In a little short of four hours, we went from muggy bedsit to damp night streets to claustrophobic underpass; from teen agitation to paranoia to corrosive ennui; from beer and speed to strong dope to heroin.
Three albums in a row; lineups approximating the originals; everyone straight on stage and hardly anyone on drugs in the audience (most too old for that stuff; some too appallingly young and healthy); and a chance to move to Simon Gallup's dance-me-to-my-grave basslines.
So-called depressive pop had never pleased so many so much.
Partisan didn’t go halfway to describing this audience who practically willed in the tick-tick-tick opening of 10.15 On A Saturday Night and proof of that came with the enthusiasm for the weaker moments of what had been a mixed debut in 1979.
Missed by many was that when it was announced that The Cure were playing their first three albums they meant their UK debut, Three Imaginary Boys, not the 1980 Australian version known as Boys Don't Cry.
Back then that had been no mere difference of packaging but a radically altered album which on any criteria made for a substantially better record. So on this night it meant a first album with no Boys Don’t Cry or Jumping Someone Else's Train, no World War or Killing An Arab – three of them absolute Cure classics now and thankfully all joyously assayed in the first encore - replaced by Foxy Lady (possibly the worst Jimi Hendrix cover ever put to vinyl), Meathook and So What.
To be fair, all three sounded better than 33 years ago, Foxy Lady cut mercifully short, but the amused look on Robert Smith's face at times suggested some of this juvenilia was from another life or another planet.
None of which took away from the jerky pop pleasures of Grinding Halt, Object and Fire In Cairo, or the way the incipient alienation of Three Imaginary Boys set us up for the second and third sets.
It was in the songs from Seventeen Seconds and Faith that The Cure, the three piece now with added synthesisers (including the belated appearance for Faith of original drummer Laurence “Lol” Tolhurst on keyboard and percussion) really shone.
The brisk chill of Play For Today, A Forest and Primary opening up to insistent dance and confirming that here is where current models Rapture, Bloc Party et al were born; the throbbing gristle of Other Voices charged with energy and darkness, reflected later in Hanging Gardens, borrowed from album number four and slipped into the second encore; the sombre A Reflection and All Cats Are Grey showing a path from Bowie’s mid ‘70s atmospheres.
The crowd pleasing third encore, with bouncy tunes such as Let’s Go To Bed, The Walk and Love Cats, from a later and cheerier version of the band, seemed tacked on, maybe for the DVD.
Call me odd but I’m going to remember the so-called doom and gloom more vividly than the hits and giggle.
The Cure play Disintegration at the Sydney Opera House, May 24-25, May 27-28.