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Gig Review: The Cure live SSE Arena Belfast

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Review by Damien Doherty for MPM

I first saw The Cure on the Wish tour on 3rd December 1992, and here I am almost exactly 30 years later at the SSE Arena in Belfast.

Though I’ve seen them many times in the intervening years this night is special, not only an anniversary celebration of sorts, but a night I’m sharing with family and friends for whom this is their first time (hope you enjoyed it JH). Even in ‘92 they were 16 year veterans, although there had been previous indications during the 1989 Disintegration tour that they considering calling it a day. Luckily for the packed audience tonight and indeed on all nights of this tour here they remain 46 years later, “the gothfathers” as proclaimed by some.

As we enter the main foyer of the SSE Arena we are greeted by an astounding sight; we’ve heard rumours from the Dublin gig the previous night but surely it can’t be possible – a merch stand selling all t-shirts at £20. Hell, they were that price 30 years ago, an immediate indication if one was needed that The Cure have remained a fan centric band.

With an expanded 6-piece line up on this tour I’m personally delighted to see the return of Perry Bamonte on guitars/keyboards after a 17-year absence. Simon Gallup looks like he’s keeping a photo of himself in his attic, fresh faced as ever he’s running up and down that stage like a man half his age. Stalwart Roger O’Donnell provides all the familiar atmospheric synth passages, while Jason Cooper is absolutely thunderous on drums tonight. “New boy” Reeves Gabrels (he’s only been there 10 years!) is fabulous on guitars, but what do you expect from this musical innovator and David Bowies co-conspirator.

And then there is Robert Smith, founder, creative force, genius, legend, so many adjectives so little time! Instantly recognisable both visually and vocally, he may look older but his voice has remained as powerful and emotive as ever. He and the band he created have inspired musicians from all genres, and his song writing legacy has over the years won over many detractors initially focused on the bands image. His music is truly accessible to all, catering to multiple tastes through the extensive and diverse back catalogue.

As is customary we are treated to a near 3-hour extravaganza, a performance in 3 acts if you will, set amongst the back drop of fantastic visuals. Hitting the stage at 8:15 Robert is genuinely excited to be here, he wanders the stage smiling and waving at the audience and apologises for having taken so long to get back to Belfast. Anyone that’s been looking at the tour setlists will have observed that they have varied from night to night with a healthy mixture of the familiar and less familiar across the albums. Tonight I’m excited that there is a distinct leaning towards the Disintegration, Head on the Door, and Wish albums.

The first set contains 4 new songs. Alone and Endsong punctuate the set, while And Nothing Is Forever and A Fragile Thing are added to the mix, all atmospheric tour de forces reminiscent of the Disintegration era. Pictures of You is set amongst a visual backdrop beautifully dedicated to Mary, Robert’s wife of 34 years.

The set steadily increases in energy – the romantic classics A Night Like This, the truly wonderful Lovesong, and Trust, the grandiose Burn from The Crow soundtrack, then we are back to the early albums with the melancholic At Night. A personal favourite, the mesmerizing and flanger heavy A Strange Day is a highlight of the first set, then we have the opening song on many a Cure tour Shake Dog Shake.

The marvellous Push is next and then we hear the distinctive harmonics laden intro of Play for Today. An unmistakable keyboard riff signals the beginning of A Forest, which over the years has been refined to an energetic masterpiece, building in vigour eventually climaxing in a reverberating bass and effects laden guitar duet until Simon alone closes with the lumbering then frenetic bass passage. A wail of guitar feedback introduces From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea, a pure rock song, before the set is ended by the aforementioned Endsong. And then they are off, for now.

The second set again begins with a new track I Can Never Say Goodbye, a song written about Roberts brother Richard who had passed away in recent years. Then it’s Disintegration bliss, Plainsong with its lush and often dissonant synthesizers and melodic bass lines, then the rarely played Prayers For Rain and the title track Disintegration all sounding just as fresh and magic as on 1989s live Entreat album.

Set 3 is designed to whip the audience into a frenzy, Lullaby is up first then The Walk. When Friday I’m In Love hits the venue is truly jumping, everyone is singing and no one is sitting anymore! Another Wish track follows in the form of Doing the Unstuck, and then we have Close To Me.

More raucous response for the timeless classics In Between Days and Just Like Heaven with visual backdrops of the Beachy Head location on which Robert and Mary danced in the video. Unfortunately, we have reached the last song, it truly doesn’t feel like we’ve been here for 3 hours. And the night ends with Boys Don’t Cry, everyone in full voice, it’s been a magical night.

Robert again struts the stage for several minutes waving to the audience with sincere gratitude before eventually departing. The Cure never disappoint, just look at the faces all around as we exit the venue. Flawless performance from the band and an excellently diverse setlist, including 5 new songs from the eagerly anticipated new album Songs of a Lost World. Here’s to the next 46 years!

Photography by MPM

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