The 3Arena is packed to capacity with crowds who have traveled from all parts of Ireland and beyond. That’s partly because The Cure inspires a particularly passionate type of fan base that will have many following multiple dates of this whopping 44-night European tour. Another draw for the big Thursday night gathering is that Cure shows are relatively few and far between here. In the band’s early years, their only Irish gig was at the Trinity Ball in 1981. In 2017, their former drummer and keyboardist Lol Tolhurst told me he still remembers walking around the unconscious bodies on a Dublin street at 6am drove.
The Cure didn’t manage to make their official live debut in Ireland until 1989, when their Prayer tour stopped at the RDS – although they did make a video for their single ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ in 1987. at Ardmore Studios in Bray, and their frontman Robert Smith lived for 18 months in a cottage in Dalkey, south Co. Dublin. Since the RDS they have performed twice at the old Point Depot, at the Oxegen and Electric Picnic festivals and at Malahide Castle.
Robert Smith is now 63 years old. Once known for his revolving door approach to band membership, he is now flanked on keyboards by Roger O’Donnell, who has been in The Cure since 1987 after stints in The Psychedelic Furs and Thompson Twins. and Simon Gallup, their talismanic bassist, who claimed to have left the band last year, according to an angry Facebook post saying he was sick of “betrayal”.
One might expect that sort of language to come from teenagers rather than seasoned musicians, but the band has grown into a stable line-up in recent years. Even Tolhurst, who was allegedly kicked out of the band for his then prodigal drinking and later took his former bandmates to court, now speaks with great pride of being a lifelong member of the Cure family.
While this family has had more than its fair share of dysfunctions, the mood at camp is clearly upbeat for a band that doesn’t really do much on stage. Her curtain opener Alone is a new perennial that begins with Smith singing, “This is the end of every song that we sing.”
Smith has said that a series of family tragedies and a litany of losses inspired the latest Cure songs, in which he reflects on the loss of his mother, father and brother. The singer who once declared “it doesn’t matter if we all die,” now carefully evaluates what happens when everyone else dies.
Follows “Pictures of You” from the album “Disintegration”, classic “Cure” at its most irresistibly in love and romantic form. The strongest suite of songs in the main set begins with Seventeen Seconds’ At Night, arguably their best sophomore album of all time, and continues with A Strange Day and The Hanging Garden, both from Pornography, the revered fourth album that lays claim to the darkest album of all time.
The stage production and visuals turn stunning for Push as a camera behind Jason Cooper’s drum kit projects the insane crowd onto giant screens. For Shake Dog Shake, a driving goth metal rock song from 1984, the six imaginary boys who make up the band’s 2022 line-up are stark silhouettes.
As the first set of encores, Smith introduces an intense and emotional new song titled “I Can Never Say Goodbye,” which he says is about his brother Richard. “Something wicked this way goes to Steal Away My Brother’s Life,” he sings sadly, before embarking on another stunning suite of songs, including Cold (also from Pornography), Charlotte Sometime and the long-running hit A Forest, which Simon Gallup put into the Length noisily stabs his bass during the outro.
The second set of encores is a dizzying sugar rush of hits. “Lullaby”, “The Walk”, “Friday I’m in Love”, “Close to Me”, “In Between Days”, “Just Like Heaven” and “Boys Don’t Cry” cap a monumental 28-song Performance that has something for everyone in an impressively diverse audience of wizened goth shoulders with stylish millennials.
After all these years, The Cure are still a band in their own right. They remain an impeccably coordinated, laser-focused squad, deftly bridging the dots between post-punk, indie and goth while simultaneously creating an entire universe of their own.
The Cure play SSE Arena tonight in Belfast; Her tour lasts until December 13th
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