Features | Three Songs No Flash | Big Music: The Cure Live At Wembley Arena – The Quietus


Photos courtesy of Jim Dyson

One of the few things I can still agree with Leon Trotsky on is that “old age is the most unexpected of all things that can happen to a man”. There was a time when I could no more imagine The Cure growing old than I could myself. My reason for thinking I would stay the same was because I was young, whereas The Cure simply seemed to stand outside time altogether, and so were disqualified from the ordinary ways of measuring duration and decay. Their appearance, basically a mask, which would morph from the strikingly decorative into a recognisable disguise over the decades, encouraged this. As did the music, which having reached something like full realisation with 2000’s Bloodflowers, rendered any further euphonious progression pointless if not impossible (as the two albums of repertoire retreads released since then unfortunately demonstrated). Happily, the brand new material that features heavily in their London set avoids those missteps, tapping back into their “big music”; The Cure’s own wall of sound that evokes timelessness and time passing, nearer post rock than goth, a vast musical Siberia, evanescing in a wash of pedals, drum rolls and memory. Despite their slow pace, which is all part of the point, none of the new numbers drag. Instead they are as reassuring as hearing a greatest hits set by your favourite group (which is also thoughtfully provided). 46 years of experience have given Smith a solid grasp of his band’s core competencies.

The passing years at least mean that Smith no longer has to endure the unnerving experience of looking into an audience that looks more like him than he does. Most of us in the audience tonight reflect the quotidian reality that the tribal era of the eighties is now a matter of historical record, and that the gap between how we appear in our spare time and the face we wear to the day job narrows all the time. In a sense this is a greater compliment to Smith than an army of clones and imitators could ever be: he will always be the lead singer of The Cure, free from the compromises in appearance and outlook that the rest of us are subject to, and if the wild hair and make-up look a little unusual on a man in his sixties, there were plenty of people who balked at the way he looked in 1986 too. As Smith takes the stage he seems genuinely bashful, as surprised as he is delighted that we are all here, but also assured, as he is about to unleash a natural gift he is rarely credited with possessing, his incredible singing voice. From the moment Smith opens his mouth to sing, the vocals cut through everything, his voice seeming to neither have developed or been diminished by time, but sounding exactly the same as it did on the records I …….


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