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The Cure, Sydney 2011 - live review

The Cure, Sydney 2011 - live review

The Cure
'Reflections' for Vivid LIVE
Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Tuesday 31st May, 2011

Truth be told, the interior of the Sydney Opera House is a little dowdy. Though the guts of the iconic Jørn Utzon designed building do boast endless ceilings, stalls and those towering pipes of the room's Grand Organ, there's a decidedly retro, beige quality to the space. Enormous, clear plastic space rings hang above the stage; the roof is corrugated with long, arching lines and various little pockmarks and turrets are plotted around the room in some kind of artful, no doubt acoustically-minded arrangement—like the fantastic interior of a space station as imagined from the '30s. Into this undecided space at 7:15 on a Tuesday night, Robert Smith, Simon Gallup and Jason Cooper walk in to a deafening roar, attend to their own instruments and play The Cure's nervy, post-punk 1979 debut Three Imaginary Boys in its entirety.

The Sydney Opera House was only five years old when The Cure—then, Robert Smith, Michael Dempsey and Lol Tolhurst (the latter of whom is here tonight, but not yet...and not to play drums)—came together in West Sussex and recorded their debut. Since then the band has verily gone on to define alternative music in their own  image; spawn countless imitators, progenies, ex-band members and press ink, all largely thanks to the singular vision (and persistent hairdo) of frontman Robert Smith.

Like a great many albums from the '70s and '80s, the band's clutch of early albums sound terribly of-a-period to listen to now. Thin, tinny, flat. (Though admittedly, this does somewhat add to the appeal). So when a wry Robert Smith says "Let's go back thirty-three years" and the bass comes in on opening track '10.15 on a Saturday Night', the sound ushering out is gorgeous. How you presume it must have always sounded, from an era before you were there— full, lively, coloured with tones that the record never suggested. So too Smiths's voice, which—despite him avoiding several higher notes along the way—sounds better than ever. This incredibly balanced, rich sound will remain for the rest of the night, and it's this new tonal range that will make the replaying of old material present in a way that we never could have expected.

The eternally youthful Simon Gallup is the early focal point, crouching low as he does for the high-stringed melodic bass runs on a snappy 'Grinding Halt'. 'Another Day'  tests out the lights, tendrils of dry ice curling up through gold beams which explode into red strobes for the frantic 'Object'. Robert Smith breaks out the harmonica for an instrumental take on 'Subway Song, dropping in guitar wails in place of the albums spoken lyrics.

(When I reviewed Metallica last year, I was struck by the bands on stage concessions to the audience. No pedals, a circular stage with mics in each pocket, a space to frame the band's men into larger than life superheroes. The Cure instead come across as very much individuals engaging with their instruments. Smith fiddles with the bridge of his guitar throughout the night; roadies only come on stage in between sets, Smith tuning and picking up and changing his own damn guitar. Which, in some small way, seems entirely apt for a band celebrating their once innocent inception.)

Smith may have professed to "hate" the band's off-the-cuff cover of 'Foxy Lady', but he sings it here with gusto, and its pairing with the snappy 'Meathook' is noticeable for the audiences newfound jiggling up front. "I hope I remember this" Smith warns, before a fantastic version of 'So What'—an almost throwaway on record is rendered purposeful and sleek in this new context; an early highlight. 'Fire in Cairo' alternatively has the band's energy flagging for a moment, before 'It's Not You' sneers through the auditorium in a fire of strobes. After a languid title track to close this first set, Smith raises his guitar and says a cheery "That was it", before the trio walk off, leaving us to collect in the stupidly scenic glass-walled bar, to compare breathless notes, booze on and watch the tugs motor past the sparkling harbour, with its great Bridge and Opera House and Glass and Lights and spectacular dreamy things painted around this pause in ours.

(Continued next page - 'Seventeen Seconds')

11 comments so far..

  • JenniferPeterson-Ward's avatar
    Commenter
    JenniferPeterson-Ward
    Date and time
    Wednesday 01 Jun 2011 - 7:00 PM
    Fantastic review, thanks for including all the details those of us unfortunate enough to have missed out wanted. Cheers!
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  • AndrewMcMillen's avatar
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    AndrewMcMillen
    Date and time
    Wednesday 01 Jun 2011 - 7:39 PM
    Wow. I have only a passing interest in The Cure, but this sounded brilliant. Great review.
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  • lukeryan's avatar
    Commenter
    lukeryan
    Date and time
    Thursday 02 Jun 2011 - 4:14 PM
    I'm with Andrew. Brilliant review, makes me wish I'd been there.
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  • aphexxx77's avatar
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    aphexxx77
    Date and time
    Thursday 02 Jun 2011 - 6:06 PM
    why only a small paragraph covering the encores??? proper cure fans, after reading the setlist, would love to know more about the rarities (NOT oddities!!!) they played. theres much more to the cure than a forest and their pop encore! credit on your research re. lol and roger but thats all... to leave out any sort of details about the amazing encores (something every european cure fan would be jealous of) was a big mistake.... did you even know any of the encore songs? seems like no, and you obviously didnt have the time or patience to research them or their significance to the real cure fans... poor review!
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  • Marcus's avatar
    Commenter
    Marcus
    Date and time
    Thursday 02 Jun 2011 - 8:39 PM
    Haha. Thanks aphexxx77 but I'm not going to describe every nuance of a 44 song set. If you're a jealous European fan you would have Googled the setlist by now anyway. The b-sides were interesting in practice but wholly unremarkable to the majority alongside the "hits", in the context and timeline of the set. Hence the focus.
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  • AndrewMcMillen's avatar
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    AndrewMcMillen
    Date and time
    Friday 03 Jun 2011 - 9:34 AM
    Also, the writer had been awake for around 40 hours by the point he got around to writing about the encore. Complicating factors.
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  • DanK's avatar
    Commenter
    DanK
    Date and time
    Friday 03 Jun 2011 - 9:59 AM
    I really wish I had been there. What an amazing experience. Thanks for the review!
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  • aphexxx77's avatar
    Commenter
    aphexxx77
    Date and time
    Friday 03 Jun 2011 - 5:55 PM
    haha, no need to be facetious... after 3pages id expect at least a LITTLE on the encores -especially considering their significance (which you obviously still dont understand). every cure FAN knows how and when to google a setlist -not the point! a few words expanding on the black and white setlist would go a long way for those who couldnt make it... and as for your 'wholly unremarkable' comment -HOW DARE YOU?! i was there, and unlike the hushed and bemused 90% of the crowd during the first 2encores -this is where the concert elevated itself above the mere regurgitation of the first three albums! for you to say this was unremarkable shows your ignorance 'in the context'!..... considering said context, and your 'focus' i deem this review misguided. you dont deserve to have your name alongside the cure!!! get a (musical) education :)
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  • Marcus's avatar
    Commenter
    Marcus
    Date and time
    Friday 03 Jun 2011 - 11:42 PM
    Aphexxx77 I don't think you realise what a jilted obsessive you're coming across as. Am I not allowed to both understand the significance but decide to not write about it? Is not the joy of music events like this one its personal impact? Should I have pop vox'd the crowd to glean a more "across the board" response? That's not the role of the critic. "Mere regurgitation"? "Bemused"? Sounds like you've your own "misguided" opinions on the event, I'd argue. But that's OK. Let's just agree to disagree. Except—hopefully—on the fact that it was a wonderful show. ?
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  • aphexxx77's avatar
    Commenter
    aphexxx77
    Date and time
    Sunday 05 Jun 2011 - 6:27 PM
    obsessive? yes! youre very much allowed to understand the significance, though im sure you dont! so true personal impact is what events like this are about -how do you justify your role as a 'critic' then??! mine is obviously the opinion of a true cure fan whereas yours is obviously that of some sort of bedroom musical journalist..... good show, yes, but ive seen 3/4 better cure shows in the last 20years! mostly due to the fact that (contrary to your misguided opinion) roberts voice is failing terribly these days... anyway, go away and leave me alone :)
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