A run of pure, visceral, rocking pop songs…delivered with care and love and passion
Wembley London 11th December 2022
Words : Ed Hewens
Photography Credit: Naomi Dryden-Smith
And so to Wembley to see The Cure. The sense of anticipation is palpable amongst the faithful, even if there are fewer high-maintenance backcombed manes bobbing around in the queues for overpriced lager than in previous years.
This is the penultimate show of three consecutive nights at Wembley, bringing to a close their lengthiest European jaunt for over thirty years. Reports from earlier dates tell breathlessly of three-hour sets, new material (from the long, long-awaited forthcoming album…) and a rejuvenated, invigorated six-piece band.
There is a lot to get through, so we’re underway promptly with the band taking the stage one by one, frontman Robert Smith arriving last. Always keen to keep an audience on their toes, we are immediately introduced to new material: tonight’s opener “Alone” is a swooping, building, flowing Disintegration-style number setting the tone carefully.
Of course, we don’t have to wait long for one that we do know: next up is “Pictures Of You”, all whimsy, melancholy pop, anchored by Simon Gallup’s thundering bassline. The band are clearly enjoying themselves and none more so than Gallup who sprints back and forth across the stage, all muscles and quiffed hair. At one point he collides with guitarist Reeves Gabrels with some force. Is this man really 62?
Picking up the pace, the set yoyos back and forth through the ‘80s and into the ‘90s: “A Night Like This”, “Charlotte Sometimes”, “Lovesong” are all delivered lovingly, each one reminding us just how unusual a band the Cure are and how hard they are to pin down: is this rock? Is this pop? Are they goth?
Anyway, we don’t have time to ponder this for long because here’s the rarely heard “Burn” from the 1994 soundtrack for “The Crow”. A well-worn hit single for any other band, surely?
As we bounce around the edges of pretty much every genre, certain things, in particular, begin to stand out, as they do with such a class act: Unsurprisingly, Smith has always been the focus of this band and their performances, but one is struck by two things tonight: firstly, he really seems to be enjoying himself, playful and boyish and regularly leaving the guitar in its stand to sway and skip around the stage, taking the time to acknowledge and enjoy the home crowd. Secondly, by just how good his voice is. I mean, if you were to compile a list of the Greatest Rock and Pop Vocalists of All Time, you might be forgiven for leaving Robert Smith out of the top 5. Or 10. Or 20. But here he is, well into his fifth decade as a frontman, belting them out, pitch-perfect, for three hours a night. And to see someone do this as the only vocalist onstage is certainly unusual.
But time is against us, so on we rattle. “A Forest” is delivered in truncated form (imagine!), presumably to make room for one more elsewhere. “Shake Dog Shake” tears a hole in time and space, videos projecting younger ghostly silhouettes of each band member on the enormous screens above them. The pace slows occasionally for favourites such as “The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea” and new heartbreaker “I Can Never Say Goodbye”, but the energy never drops. Seriously, how do they keep this up?
“Plainsong”, “Prayers For Rain” and “Disintegration” complete this relatively sedately delivered section, but after a short break (Vitamin shots? Energy drinks?) they’re back and the pace begins to crank up again. We’re on the home stretch now, but there’s still so much ground to cover: “Lullaby”, “The Walk”, “Let’s Go To Bed”, “Friday I’m In Love”, “Close To Me”, “In Between Days”, “Just Like Heaven” and – is there really time for one more? – finally, it’s “Boys Don’t Cry”. what a run of pure, visceral, rocking pop songs! Delivered with care and love and passion by a group of men who still maintain the capacity to surprise after all these years. We leave; stunned; happy, joyful even; entertained, certainly. But what about the ones they didn’t play? Well, there’s always tomorrow night, I suppose.
Copyright / Photo Credit: Naomi Dryden Smith