June 30, 2016 at 12:57 pm EDT | by Chris Gerard
The Cure triumphs at Merriweather
the Cure, gay news, Washington Blade

Robert Smith of the Cure. (Photo by Bill Ebbesen; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Last Wednesday, June 22, British alternative-rock titans the Cure brought its first extensive tour of America in nearly a decade to Merriweather Post Pavilion. A sea of people packed the venue on a beautiful summer night to see one of the most enduring and influential bands of the last 40 years.

It was clear from the beginning that the Cure has lost none of its considerable power, as members started the show with the fiery rocker “Open” from their 1992 album “Wish.”

Robert Smith looked and sounded much like he always has. He walked out on stage in his usual disheveled black frock, dark spiderweb hair and mussed red lipstick. Smith is now 57, but his distinct swampwater voice is as powerful as ever. Over the course of 32 songs, he switched back and forth between acoustic and electric guitar, keeping the between-song banter to a minimum (and most of the time his thickly accented mumbles were inaudible anyway). Bassist Simon Gallup, who has been alongside Smith since almost the beginning, stalked around the stage with restlessly intensity, while guitarist Reeves Gabrels, keyboardist Roger O’Donnell and drummer Jason Cooper formed a tightly wound and explosive musical unit. One might argue that Simon Gallup’s bass was too high in the mix and Roger O’Donnell’s keyboard was a bit too low, but that would be a minor quibble. By and large the Cure sounded fantastic.

The band effortlessly switched from brooding rockers to somber emotional pieces to ebullient pop, the schizophrenic combination for which the Cure is so famous. The crowd was incredibly enthusiastic as the band traipsed through its enormous catalog, pulling out big hits, deep album cuts and a few obscurities for the die-hards. “Pictures of You” was an early highlight, with the spine-tingling swirls of keyboard and guitar backing Smith’s bittersweet memories of a love he let slip through his fingers. Big hits like “Just Like Heaven,” “The Walk,” “In Between Days” and “Lovesong” had the large and surprisingly diverse crowd singing along to every word. The rarely played “Bananafishbones” was a treat, as was “All I Want,” a hard-edged deep cut the band dusted off from 1987’s “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.” The behemoth of the main set was the seven-minute epic “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,” which featured blistering guitar work by Gabrels.

The band played four encores, beginning with the throbbing bass-heavy “Sinking” from 1986’s “The Head on the Door.” An incendiary take on “Shake Dog Shake” was followed by the 1994 soundtrack hit “Burn” from “The Crow,” and then their old warhorse “A Forest,” a classic from 1980’s “Seventeen Seconds.” As the night wound toward its conclusion, the band amped the crowd to a fever pitch as they rampaged through a series of hits including “Lullaby,” “Wrong Number,” “Fascination Street,” “Let’s Go to Bed” and “Close to Me.”

By the time of “Why Can’t I Be You?,” a clearly winded Robert Smith gamely tried to hit the song’s very high notes without much success, but it hardly mattered — the crowd did a wonderful job filling in for him, singing every word with blissful euphoria. The show closed with “Boys Don’t Cry,” a 1979 single that was never a hit on either side of the Atlantic but somehow 37 years later a packed amphitheater in suburban D.C. sang a long to every word as if it was a worldwide chart-topper.

At the end of the epic three-hour show Merriweather was still full. After the band waved their goodbyes to thunderous applause, Robert Smith stood alone in the spotlight on the stage, basking in the crowd’s love and appreciation. He paused momentarily in front of each section as the entire place stood and cheered, arms in the air clapping wildly. It was an amazing moment. Smith seemed like he didn’t want to leave the stage, he was so obviously touched and moved. Eventually he shambled off, looking over his shoulder one last time at the still-standing, still enthusiastically cheering crowd, and it was finally over just as the clock was hitting 11 p.m.

1.  Open [“Wish” – 1992]
2.  High [“Wish” – 1992]
3.  Pictures of You [“Disintegration” – 1989]
4. Closedown [“Disintegration” – 1989]
5. Kyoto Song [“The Head on the Door” – 1985]
6. A Night Like This [“The Head on the Door” – 1985]
7. The Walk [non-album single – 1983]
8. The End of the World [“The Cure” – 2004]
9. Lovesong [“Disintegration” – 1989]
10. If Only Tonight We Could Sleep [“Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” – 1987]
11. All I Want [“Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” – 1987]
12. Push [“The Head on the Door” – 1985]
13. In Between Days [“The Head on the Door” – 1985]
14. Just Like Heaven [“Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” – 1987]
15. Bananafishbones [“The Top” – 1984]
16. Never Enough [“Mixed Up” – 1990]
17. From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea [“Wish” – 1992]
18. End [“Wish” – 1992]

Encore 1

19. Sinking [“The Head on the Door” – 1985]
20. It Could Never Be The Same [new unreleased track]

Encore 2

21. Shake Dog Shake [“The Top” – 1984]
22. Burn [“The Crow” Soundtrack – 1994]
23. A Forest [“Seventeen Seconds” – 1980]

Encore 3

24. Dressing Up [“The Top” – 1984]
25. Lullaby [“Disintegration” – 1989]
26. Fascination Street [“Disintegration” – 1989]
27. Wrong Number [new single for “Galore” hits collection – 1997]

Encore 4

28. Hot Hot Hot!!! [“Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” – 1987]
29. Let’s Go to Bed [non-album single – 1982]
30. Close to Me [“The Head on the Door” – 1985]
31. Why Can’t I Be You? [“Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” – 1987]
32. Boys Don’t Cry [non-album single – 1979]

  • GREAT review of the show, Chris.

    Decided at the last minute to drive down from NY to MD after coming to the conclusion the 3 MSG shows weren’t enough. So glad I did – great crowd and setlist and was able to get even closer to the stage @ the end to join into the well deserved raucous applause at the end.

    I’ll never forget this show.

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, and thanks for reading! I am glad you came down and got to see the show. It was truly amazing, and I will never forget it either. Those MSG shows had some great sets!! I’m jealous :) Thanks for your nice comment. – Chris

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