Monday, June 13, 2016

The Cure "Just Like Heaven?" Not Quite, but Relatively "Close to Me" -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

The Cure
w/ opening act The Twilight Sad
June 10, 2016 (also June 11)
UIC Pavilion, Chicago

The Cure are not in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

And to my awareness, they’ve only ever been nominated for consideration once, in 2012, despite seemingly being eligible since 2004, 25 years after their debut album (which was Three Imaginary Boys, not Boys Don’t Cry).

Although the Rock Hall is a dubious arbiter—and has thus far omitted favorites like the Zombies, Jam, Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Warren Zevon and Midnight Oil—other genre-defining bands germinating in the ‘80s such as U2, R.E.M. and Metallica have been inducted.

To me, in terms of their popularity at the time and their staying power, The Cure are of that ilk.

And especially in terms of the Goth subset of British New Wave—the former and/or latter from which contemporaries like Depeche Mode, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Smiths, XTC, Joy Division, New Order, Duran Duran, Bauhaus, the Psychedelic Furs, Jesus & Mary Chain and others have also been entirely ignored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voters—the band led by Robert Smith seems iconically influential and qualitatively distinctive enough to warrant inclusion.

As, for my money, they demonstrated once again Friday night at the UIC Pavilion, with Smith’s trademark vocals—hopefully doleful or dolefully hopeful, depending on the song—sounding as strong as ever at age 57.

But it was also a show that could have corroborated the opinions of those not completely sold on the Cure’s illustrious merits.

Because it informs my take, let me note that I was not a Cure fanatic in real-time at the height of their popularity. Unlike presumably many in the audience Friday (and Saturday), they did not dominate the soundtrack, ameliorate the angst nor dictate the fashion sense of my high school and college years, although I was of a conducive age.

Certain songs were inescapable, but it wasn't until 1993’s twin live albums—Show and Paris—that my music collection became, well, Curated, though I would subsequently acquire 1989’s Disintegration and much that came after, as well as multiple hits sets.

My familiarity and regard have grown considerably over the years, and in preparing to see the Cure live in 2000, 2008 and now, another 8 years later, I came to appreciate how far their quality extends far beyond the sizable trove of hits.

Yet I can’t deny that my overt affinity runs mostly to the more popular songs, and even in (re-)acquainting myself with several of their albums and Spotifamiliarizing myself based on recent, somewhat rotating setlists for nearly a month, I found myself unfamiliar with a good number of tunes they ran through on Friday night, especially in their 18-song main set. (See the setlist here.)

With the caveat that I recognize a number of Cure songs I couldn't readily name, "Kyoto Song," "All I Want," "Primary," "Like Cockatoos," "The Perfect Girl," "Screw," "The Walk," "Charlotte Sometimes" and "Jupiter Crash" are among those played that I would consider a bit esoteric.

This doesn't mean I didn't like what I heard; everything in itself actually sounded pretty swell, with Smith's vocals and guitar accompanied by longtime bassist, Simon Gallup, former David Bowie collaborator Reeves Gabrels on guitar, Roger O'Donnell on keyboards and demonstrably-terrific drummer Jason Cooper. (Note: These names are per Wikipedia, as they weren't introduced onstage. I think only Gallup goes way back with Smith.)

Even when I didn't know what was being played, it was unfailingly well-delivered, usually with an entrancing mix of lights and video.

So it's not like I only wanted easy ear-candy Cure, which when it came in abundance late in the 2 hour, 40 minute show--"Never Enough," "Fascination Street," "In Between Days," "Friday I'm In Love," "Close to Me," "Boys Don't Cry" and more--was delightful, but almost too sticky sweet all run together.

But about 90 minutes into the show, with only "A Night Like This," "Pictures of You," "Lovesong" and "Just Like Heaven" having truly served the low-hanging fruit contingent, The Cure were at risk of overstaying their stay in laborious, self-indulgent territory.

While the terrific A Head on the Door album cut, "Push," "One Hundred Years," the propulsive main-set closer "Give Me It" and other songs I can't specifically cite kept things from ever getting too dull, I think Smith may have best squeezed just a bit more bubblegum into the early proceedings.

And maybe a couple more dense, challenging songs could well have broken up the late-show hit parade.

As my companion said as we were leaving--and he was much more smitten by the deep cuts than the hits--"it felt like two different shows."

Each of which had plenty of moments that, to me, aptly demonstrate why The Cure deserves to be in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

So even if I probably could have been just as happy with a half-hour less, other than tight-squeeze arena seats seemingly designed for slim college students, it was a comfortable evening, so I can't really complain--or deduct @'s--for getting a bit more of a Cure than I needed.

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