I’ve been thinking about this post about The Cure for weeks – including working on various drafts, etc. I have a lot of thoughts that I wanted to write about, and just like many things, sometimes it’s best to start from the beginning.
For those of you that know me, or follow this blog, you might know that I am a fan of The Cure, and on multiple levels. I was a fan before owning or ever playing a guitar. Sometimes loving music BEFORE becoming a musician is the best. It’s honest and pure – the love of the music and the art. Once you become a musician, you begin to tear down songs, see how they work, look behind the curtain, etc., and to me, ruins the pure enjoyment I had just listening to music. The Cure was one of the bands that actually made me think and *feel* in ways that were unexpected to me. When you’re a Sophomore or Junior in high school, you’re just tapping into those weird emotions and it’s all very confusing. The Cure at the time was a perfect guide in a way that helped normalize the experience for me and would eventually lead me to find friends with similar tastes of music. When I look back – that state of mind, the appreciation of art, the willingness to be different, and the ability to “feel” has helped define who I am today.
The first songs I learned as a guitarist were Cure songs. The first pedals I ever owned was a Flanger and a Delay to get those Cure tones. Learning melody lines and scales (without realizing what scales were) creeps into my guitar playing ALL the time today. They’re rooted deep inside and what comes out naturally when I work on melodies on my own music. To say the band and Robert Smith is an influence for me – is an understatements, and I touched upon this subject here.
In 1989 I had an opportunity to see The Cure during their Prayer Tour (for Disintegration) in Denver, CO… and I didn’t go. I still regret that. Love and Rockets and the Pixies opened up. What. Was. I. Thinking? Shortly after that, The Cure broke up and I was filled with regret thinking that I would never see this band. Luckily, that break didn’t last and they came out with the Wish album – and a world tour would follow. This was July 1992 in Seattle, WA. The show was amazing and I would say at their peek of success.
Now, around this time, the music world changed. Grunge was just happening. Seattle was blowing up. But also there was a wave of weird interesting music – not grunge, maybe counter-grunge like Silkworm, Pavement, Built to Spill, Polvo, etc. I remember the 90s as a time of new stuff.. ALL the time. And with the new, you sometimes have to let go of the old – and The Cure, sadly fell off my radar. I never bought any of their later stuff after the Wish album.
Around 5 years ago I found myself in between bands. It was a dark time for me. I mean, I’ve been in a band or project since the mid-90s solid. Here I was, no band, no prospects, and I was very scared this was going to be the period where one ‘hangs up the guitar’ and it never comes back down. Too old. Too busy. Then one day while working in my computer world, I heard the song Last Dance (off of Disintegration) come up on random on my MP3 server. The guitar line in that song is simply awesome, and It occurred to me, that I’ve never learned to play that song. I fired up the rig, pulled out the flanger and started working on it. I was excited to figure it out, and started working on other songs from the album. I decided to pass the time, I would learn Cure songs to keep the fingers and brain thinking about guitar. During this period I ran into an old guitar friend of mine and we started talking about The Cure and what that band meant to us and we both decided to try a Cure tribute project. It’s not a ‘cover band’, but a tribute. One show. One night. We pulled that off – 25 songs and it was an amazing experience for me. During this, obviously, The Cure fire was reignited and I rediscovered those old Cure songs, and started finding albums that I missed during the late 90s. I was an active fan again.
The 2016 Tour
I’ve been wanting to see the band again, but unfortunately, they’ve been headlining festivals – and frankly, that is the last place I would ever want to watch this band. So when they announced a world tour for 2016, I about lost my mind. It was interesting that they were doing a large world tour without releasing an album, but I wasn’t complaining. This was their first US tour in 8 or 9 years, so there was no way in hell I would miss out on this.
They started the tour in New Orleans. I was able to purchase tickets for my wife and I at the Hollywood Bowl (excited to see this show in a such a historical venue). I figured if I see the set list (via setlist.fm – amazing site for the obsessed) in New Orleans, I would get an idea on what songs to expect for our show weeks later. They played 2 nights in New Orleans, and the sets were SO different. Okay.. they must be playing a Set A and Set B for each show. Both sets were awesome, so I was excited for either one. Then they played Texas.. different set. What.. is going on? By the time they played the Hollywood Bowl, they played 70 distinct songs on this tour. They were playing B-Sides, rarities, the hits.. old and new. It was clear, this was going to be a tour for the fans.
I remember in 1992 I was amazed that were were so many young people AND there were so many “old” people at that show. I was 21 back then and I remember telling my girlfriend that it was odd that there were so many 40 year olds at this show. Sitting waiting for the show in Hollywood Bowl in 2016, I couldn’t help and smile to myself thinking – wow, I’m one of those 40 year olds now.
I want to talk about the performance a little. First off.. they played 30+ songs every show on the tour. Their set was 3 hours long.. every show on the tour. They played 3-4 encores.. every show on the tour. I wanted to get these facts out of the way. Robert Smith was absolutely amazing. Guitar and voice were perfection. The choice of songs were great – they even played “The Exploding Boy” which is something they play rarely.
This was the first time to experience Reeves Gabrels outside of YouTube (live and in person). I have to say, he blew my mind on so many different levels. The guy can ‘shred’ that’s a fact, but The Cure is not a ‘shred band’. It’s about layers. It’s about mood. But, there are times when things need to release, and get wild. Reeves was perfect. Some of the songs I know extremely well and I absolutely loved that he was able to put his signature on certain parts – different than the recorded version, but still fits and is appropriate. Frankly, better than the recordings. The lead he played on “The Edge of the Deep Green Sea” is unbelievable and so much better than the recording.. it’s ridiculous. I’ve never seen an artist come in and out of the spot light. Pull back, blow things up and fit right in like him. He’s the perfect compliment to Robert on guitar.
Simon Gallup on bass. Man. That guy has had the best bass lines on the planet for years. That is a major part of The Cure structure. It’s the foundation for the guitar interplay and sets the mood. He’s always been a beast on bass, but for this tour, he was a mad man constantly running and jumping and aggressively giving his all. Incredibly fun to watch.
The show gave me a melancholy feeling though – and not because it’s the Cure. The crowd all had smiles. Everyone was singing along. So much love focused to the band. The melancholy feeling was.. is this the last Cure tour? It felt like a “last blast” for the fans. I didn’t want it to end. But then again, I’ve thought it was the end.. since 1989 and they always seem to continually bring it.
I don’t want to get into too many details – because this would be an entire post by itself, but we had a chance to see them again – this time in Salt Lake City. The show was amazing just like the other show we attended, but we had much better seats that the Bowl show, but the highlight of this was afterwards. My wife and I had an opportunity to go backstage and meet Reeves. At the end of the show it was like a whirlwind, almost dream like, grouping up with a few people to go to the hospitality room. I remember walking in and immediately seeing Roger O’Donnell (keyboards) and couldn’t believe this was happening. Shortly after, Reeves came in (which that night was his 60th birthday) and we talked to him for a good 15-20 minutes about gear, and I made sure to tell him that solo on The Edge of the Deep Green Sea was awesome. He grinned and said “yeah, that’s a fun one”.
Shortly afterwards, my wife gave me a nod, and there was Robert Smith, Simon Gallup and Jason Cooper (drums). Here we all are in this little room. The band was not seeing anyone except friends and family, so definitely we were the strangers in the room. No selfies. No autographs. It was ‘chill’, but inside we were freaking out. What do I say to the guy that has influenced me all these years? The answer.. nothing. I’ve never been so star struck in all of my life. I’ve seen and met plenty of rockers and celebrities in the past. It’s always been fun and interesting. But literally, I was speechless. We ended up talking to other people in the room, but never had a good opportunity to speak with Robert. I didn’t want to interrupt any conversations and be “that guy”. There is a part of me that is fine with not saying anything. Would I have said something stupid? Probably. But there is also a part of me that regrets simply not saying “thank you” to him. Maybe there will be another opportunity in the future. I hope so.