TEXT/PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PASSMAN
ACL Festival this year had two astronomical headliners who saw their heyday in the ‘80s: Depeche Mode and The Cure. Both are new wave pioneers, but The Cure shares more popularity as a rock band that turned more people on to new wave and alternative rock. Robert Smith’s trademark hair obviously helped that, but The Cure’s songs seem to resonate more. The intro was quite a spectacle with a fog and keyboard melody intro to “Plainsong” as the band took the stage with the lights only in the back. Smith’s emergence is unmistakable. His mop leads him. The only other original founding member of The Cure who’s still in the band is Simon Gallup, who had an even bigger trademark do. Lately, it looks like he just walked out of London’s Marquee Club in 1976.
The first three songs in the set were the first three songs from Disintegration, a lush, psychedelic album that many view as their best album. However, most of those with that affinity were not old enough to remember their earlier work. I thought Pornography was their best album, with everything that came before that and then to The Head On The Door as all being innovative. I wasn’t a big fan of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss me, which had their first major US hits in “Why Can’t I Be You?”, which I thought was silly, and “Just Like Heaven,” which could only be described as a timelessly perfect psychpop song. Both songs were played during the set.
Other songs in the set were “High”, “Friday I’m in Love,” “Doing The Unstuck”, and “Trust” from 1992’s release Wish. That was the last album I bought from The Cure. It was not as memorable to me back then since I liked their earlier material more, but the songs held up surprisingly well. I didn’t realize they were as good as they were, so it was great to realize it. “Fascination Street” was a crowd pleaser. I liked the song, but the it’s a long song that I felt could have been taken up with two earlier songs. Not to disappoint, they played Pornography’s “100 Years” and “The Caterpillar” from The Top, which was the first album where Robert Smith emphasized their psychedelic influences. They also included their first hits from Japanese Whispers: “The Love Cats”, “The Walk”, and “Let’s Go To Bed.” I was not a big fan of the album at the time it came out. I thought it was too poppy. Hearing them for the first time in who knows how many years made me feel like a 15 year old again. It was really fun to sing along to them and their other songs.
“Hot Hot Hot” and “Why Can’t I Be You?” were obligatory, but they ended with “Boys Don’t Cry” in their seven song encore. What could I say? I finally got to see The Cure! Their set the second weekend was much better as it included “A Night Like This,” “In Between Days”, and “Push” from The Head On The Door, which was regarded as a rebirth. The songs on the album had more punch with jangly acoustic guitars adding to their sound. The major hit from that album was “Close To Me”, which is another song I thought was silly, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. Two curious additions to the set the second week were very welcome by me and a couple that I met during the show that was also familiar with their catalog: “Give Me It”, which is one of their loudest songs, and “Stop Dead,” the b-side of In Between Days.
The Cure always had a reputation for great shows. I was always jealous of my friends that went up to see them at Red Rocks during the ‘80s. As much as I would have liked to have been at those shows to see and hear earlier material, I felt awfully lucky to see them. Robert looks like a Grandma with his hair appearing white from backlighting and a sequin glittery hoodie, but he can wear and look however he wants to, lipstick and all. Nobody cares. It’s The Cure. We’re all still going to go see them and we’re going to dance, sing, and have the time of our lives. We did. Robert did, too.
Passman’s Complete ACL Coverage: