Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Robert Smith Kicks Ass: The Cure at the Allstate Arena, May 17, 2008
Clearly, my long work-imposed absence has led to a concerning state of affairs here when someone (ahem, JR) could possibly blaspheme Robert Smith by comparing him to the fugly little fucktard J Mascis. Clearly, in the words of Michael Kors, there’s some serious taste issues going on here. Clearly, Robert is superior in every possible way, and has already kicked’ J’s ass. But still, I feel it my duty to defend the honor of my one true love.
My love affair with Robert started when I was a wee one, just 8 years old. After becoming the unfortunate pariah of the third grade, I came home after a particularly rough day, threw myself on my bed, and cried my little heart out. My older sister, who witnessed my meltdown as she was on her way out, picked up a new tape for me to cheer me up, saying, “Here, I’ve heard they’re good when you’re sad.” That tape was Standing on a Beach, the Cure’s first compilation of singles and B sides. That tape held a place of honor for many many years, and last year when it finally gave out, I wept as I filed the tangled mess of tape in the circular bin.
But from the moment when I first heard the brooding bass of “A Forest” and “Charlotte Sometimes,” I was completely hooked. The songs were moody and beautiful and had a sound that was completely different from any of the cheesy pop songs 8 year olds like. The guitar riffs were atmospheric, and Robert Smith’s voice haunting. And thus, my inner goth was born. So by junior high when my peers were making me wretch with their NKOTB obsessions, I had Disintegration and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me in heavy rotation.
My obsession with all things Robert Smith has never faded, even twentysomething years later. Last summer when I heard the Cure was coming to town, I nearly peed my pants with delight. I had seen them with some friends a few years earlier on their Bloodflowers tour, but because we showed up drunk and proceeded to bum some weed off the Goths to our left, that show is a bit of a haze. And from what I remember, the show was heavy on their somber, newer stuff and only very briefly touched on old favorites. This show, however, I would enjoy fully sober and with some kick ass seats.
So Maise, our friend Mimsy, and I arrived to the show after nearly a year’s wait (due to the cancellation of the show last fall) with high expectations. Opening with “Plainsong” and “Prayers for Rain,” things started out slowly but built steadily throughout the 3-hour set, which included a solid mix of both new and old songs. But unlike other nostalgia acts that have reunited, like the Police, the Cure wasn’t trying to relive the peak of their popularity by rehashing a bunch of old and tired songs. Instead, they debuted a trio of new songs, which upon first listen, seem as solid and relevant musically as any of their older material.
But to the band’s credit, they didn’t focus too heavily on songs off their newest album. Instead, they balanced new songs carefully with old favorites, such as “Love Cats,” “Jumping Someone Else’s Train,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” and “Why Can’t I Be You?”. And even more to their credit, they drew deeply from all of their albums, playing lesser-known favorites, such as “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” (a personal favorite), “The Kiss,” and “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep.” Overall, it was an excellent mix of new and old, pop and moody, upbeat and atmospheric and at once satisfied casual listeners and hardcore fans alike.
For every song they played, I could think of five others I would have also loved to hear, like “Fascination Street,” “High,” or “Charlotte Sometimes,” none of which sadly made the set list. But this is not to say that this show was at all lacking; it’s more a testament to the vast and solid catalog of songs the Cure has developed over the last 30 years. I think everyone in the crowd would have happily stayed all night to hear their entire catalog, but sadly, Robert’s voice would not hold out.
In fact, I was quite concerned at the beginning of the show when Robert announced he was battling a sore throat and quipped, “I can barely talk. I hope the gods I don't pray to will smile on me.” The previous week, when Maise and I saw the Police, Sting’s sore throat meant the show was only 1.5 hours. That’s a respectable length, but it hardly gives fans the variety of songs they’re paying a lot of money to hear.
Robert, however, was quite the trooper, and apologized repeatedly for “sounding like shit.” No one seemed to mind, and his raspy voice didn’t at all dampen the performance. He was totally adorable when they had some technical problems during “Freakshow,” and he flailed his arms around dorkily lamenting, “I can’t hear the guitar!” Trent would have lunged menacingly at the roadies, but Robert carried on with his dorky dancing. I wanted to scoop him up, put him in my pocket, and take him home with me. Well, until he spit all over the stage. Note to Robert: even a sore throat doesn’t excuse expectorating on the floor. It’s just poor manners.
For all my years of Robert worship, I couldn’t have asked for a better Cure show. I wasn’t the least bit disappointed, and in fact, this show made me love Robert and the band all the more. Robert Smith really does kick ass.