As far as heroes of alternative rock go few are more important then the Cure, the British band loved post-punk purists, goth kids and radio listeners alike. As Robert Smith once claimed sheepishly, you would be hard pressed to find groups that have not been influenced by the group.
With an impending anniversary Robert Smith and the group have taken the matter of honoring the group’s history in their own hands. The group is back on tour playing to sold out audiences across the globe and they have even found time to record a new album, which is likely to be their last.
We caught the Cure live in Bucharest, playing in the Rock the City festival, and it got us thinking about why a band as quirky, inventive and plain odd, remains colossally successful. Based on last night’s gig, here’s our thoughts.
Playing rarely, but giving fans as much music as can be squeezed in
Big rock bands have often been accused of being jaded about playing large arena-size shoes. Often audiences complain about groups wandering quickly through their hits before saying their goodbyes and moving on to the next paycheck.
Not the Cure! Although the group has toured less frequently in recent years, Robert Smith insists on giving their devoted fans the best value for their ticket price. We witnessed the Cure play a 2 1/2 hour show that included deep cuts as well as singles in a career spanning set. Those in attendance not sold on the group prior to the concert were left surprised by their commitment and by the sheer number of quality songs the group has to present.
A special relationship with their die-hard fans
Before the videos for Close to me or Lullaby made them international stars, the Cure was one of the most respected post-punk groups. Although they nearly split off a couple of times, and even though the group nearly became a Robert Smith solo project at times, the Cure remained extremely tenacious and resilient.
With a large and generally even discography the die-hard fans of the band remain now with hours upon hours of music to digest. The band acknowledges this and does its best to play music from all of the group’s eras, from the pop-punkof Boys don’t cry, the nihilistic Fascination Street, the psychedelic A Forest, the jangle-rock of Friday I’m in love.
More than any other band, except for perhaps Pink Floyd, the Cure’s appeal stretches from lifelong obsessive fans to those who have only heard their singles on the radio, but are glad to lend their support.
An interest in modern music
Much of the Cure’s success can be attributed to Robert Smith’s songwriting chops. And, their numerous changes in style can be attributed to an earnest interest in new sounds and ways to express themselves.
The Cure are known to support young groups which they are themselves fans of. Last night’s concert saw the group, once again, share the group with the Editors, the post-punk revival group that owes a good deal to the sound of aesthetic of the group. With a sound that is just as textured as that of Smith and co, the Editors rely heavily on an electronic synth sound, creating an amalgamation of modern alternative rock.
Their choice of lyrical topics also move into a familiar territory to that of the Cure’s bleakest spots in their discography (Pornography or Disintegration) largely expressing doom and gloom behind a fashionable keyboard riff. It’s a nifty trick that few bands have pulled off better than the Cure.
The Cure appear humble, yet always well prepared
The current incarnation of the group has guitar duties being taken over by Reeves Gabrels, a guitar maestro and frequent collaborator of David Bowie. Roger O’Donnell treats the sound through his synth and keyboard filter. Simon Gallup’s bass is always center-stage, while Gallup is easily the most animated member of the band. Jason Cooper plays flawlessly throughout a set that would wear out most other drummers. Robert Smith sings as well as he ever has and plays his guitar without missing his mark.
The Cure are top professionals. Yet, they seem humble and approachable. In their brief interactions with the audience they display the kind of honesty lacking in many other bands of their caliber. Because of this, of their numerous great songs and albums and of their identity, the Cure remain one of the best live bands you are likely to see today.