Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Cure, 65 Days of Static - 6/9/08 - Toyota Center - Houston, TX

First, let me dispense with 65 Days of Static. They sucked. Tight? Professional? Sure. They played four songs in their half hour set, all of them long (obviously), self-indulgent instrumentals that didn’t go anywhere. Eight or nine minutes of waiting for an actual song to start before realizing you had just heard the song. Four times. Who listens to this shit?

Although The Cure has literally never let me down in terms of live performance, I had some trepidation about this tour. The line up was a more stripped down version of the band than any since their earliest days – Robert Smith on vocals and guitar, Porl Thompson on guitar, Simon Gallup on bass, and Jason Cooper on drums. Given that The Cure has relied so heavily on keyboards to fill out their sound in the past I was pretty certain the performance quality would suffer for their lack.

This didn’t prove to be the case. Robert Smith is nothing if not adaptable. While some of the songs did sound thin, the new arrangements allowing for guitar or bass to cover keyboard melodies worked surprisingly well and lent them a rawness and urgency that is unusual for this band. If you’re 100% dedicated to the more ethereal presentations of The Cure then this was not the show for you. Even typically keyboard heavy songs like “Hot Hot Hot”, “Just Like Heaven” and “Plainsong” worked well in this guitar heavy configuration – something I would have never expected.

Playing for three hours the band stuck primarily to material from Head on the Door and beyond through their main set and first encore, especially Head on the Door and Disintegration, pulling only four songs from their forthcoming record amidst a smattering of songs, both well known and obscure, from from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Wish, Bloodflowers, Wild Mood Swings, and The Cure. They did reach all the way back to Pornography to pull out a stunningly effective “100 Years” – Smith may have just gotten really good at faking it, but he sure as hell sounded as angry as he was 25 years ago when that song was recorded.

That Smith still has a fire burning in him was, to me at least, reinforced by the (audience pleasing, I’ll grant) raw power of their second encore. Consisting of songs from The Cure’s earliest days – “Boys Don’t Cry”, a brilliant combination of “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” and the rarely heard live “Grinding Halt”, and “Killing an Arab” – this mini set really kicked things up a notch. In spite of the fact that three of the four are de rigueur crowd pleasers, the band imbued them with an energy that hearkened back to the days when Robert Smith’s vision for The Cure was one of a punk band, and they truly tore up the stage with them. We listened to Seventeen Second’s “A Forest”, the third encore and last song of the night, as we were leaving and it sounded every bit as good as everything that had come before.

It was difficult to get a feel for the new material on just one live listen, but they sounded good enough to intrigue me and fill me with hope that the upcoming album will be a dramatic improvement over the disappointment of 2004’s The Cure.

My one complaint – Jason Cooper on drums. While competent, he displays none of the creativity of Boris Williams. He doesn’t hit nearly as hard and depends way too much on electronic drums. In a band as reliant on heavy rhythms as The Cure he is, in my opinion, a real liability.

Overall, however, The Cure have done it for me again. Of the many reasons I love this band their live performance is way up there on the list. It’s not many a stadium act that can keep me entertained and at times enraptured for three hours. It’s not many a stadium act that can maintain the kind of focus and energy The Cure bring to the table and never look like they’re phoning it in for three hours. In fact, I can’t think of another. Not too bad for four old guys.


El Gonzi said...

Boris is way better than Jason.
His creativity is superior and musicians/drummers can thank him by the masterpieces in the four albums he recorded. Period.


MiseryCreek said...

Yep. There's a difference between drummers and stylists. I think it apparent which is which between the two.

Anonymous said...

I would have given my left nut to see The Cure do anything even write a grocery list (alas! I have no nuts at all!!... ) Saw them when I was a teen, way back in the day; can't remember which tour. The concert shirt had RS with a greenish face on it??? I just think they're holding their own, is all. Still listen to their old stuff, can't keep from buying their new stuff. Pretty good for, as you mentioned, old guys and junkies at that. To mix true talent with the punk/waver/whatever thing and play actual instuments, well, hell, not too many can keep up on that for so long. I love them! Is he still wearing the "Cons?", Robert Smith? Yummy! Peace, love and hard cock, AK G Rae

MiseryCreek said...

I'll keep going to see them until both RS have to be wheeled into the venue and buying their records 'til I'm stone deaf. Probably even then just to show my support. Their last record was pretty spotty, but then so was "The Top", and look at what they went on to do after that. They're top 5 in my book until they nail my coffin shut. Even with Jason fucking Cooper on drums.