Music Interviews

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The Cure

by Frank Andrick
published in Rockade (Russia

The Cure c Randy Bachman/Artist Publications

The Cure in San Francisco
photo © Randy Bachman/Artist Publications

There's only one band in the history of the world that uses more fog than Pink Floyd. That band is The Cure.

In a prelude to the opening song "Open" on their current tour, a song taken from their latest recording effort, Wish, the fog boiled forth from the open maw of the stage. Punctuated by stabs of laser beams and flanked by dark, twinned towers, the fog rolled over at least 10,000 people crowded in front of the stage and stretching out for at least 100 yards across the playing field and over their heads.

The opening crash of chords that signaled the beginning bludgeoned the moonlight air across the stadium as dual rotary lights projected a 20-foot spoked design, catching the musicians in their alternating play of shadow and blood-red optical transfugence.

The Cure's hit single High seasoned the set, establishing the bouncy, dreamy side of the band's sound as a sickle-shaped moon hung halfway across the stadium in its journey from horizon to horizon. The crowd sent up sky rockets and colorful explosives, as if an attempt to reach the low-hanging orb was possible. Then again, it was the 4th of July, America's birthday, and anything seemed possible.

As thick rivulets of fog turned the people to wraith-like phantasms, exciting the imagination, The Cure launched into "Pictures of You." Then "Lullaby" aka "The Spider Song" took on the proportions of a snake and its prey as heliocentric projections of an evil, jealous green spun their trails from the stage through the stadium. Additional color and extra echo were added by guitarist Porl Thompson.

"Just Like Heaven," the frisky tune also covered by Dinosaur Jr., took on new life as syncopated chaos in a wash of wah-wah and feedback, from out of which the galloping bass lines and crash-swerve of guitars signaled the arrival of "Desolation Street," followed by "A Night Like This," as Porl draped this exercise in atmosphere with descending curtains of grunge guitar noise.

"Friday I'm in Love" was announced as: "This is the kind of thing we like to play on Independence Day." Afterwards, the band sailed straight and strong into "The Edge of the Deep Blue Sea," one of the band's personal favorites. Then, the scratch and sheen of a creepy "My Bloody Valentine" broke the surface of silence, announcing "Never Enough," a triple-tiered guitar extravaganza that plunged straight ahead into a beat with no funk and synths, that in itself was just like heaven to the fans fortunate enough to hear this older song in a new mode.

For my money, the studio version of "Let's Get Happy" is almost too happy by the standards I associate with The Cure. However, played out live to an audience the song is venomously spat forth by Robert Smith in a cynically playful fashion, while Porl cuts loose, giving Dinosaur Jr. grungemeister J. Mascis a run for his money. Then Porl takes a cakewalk that leads directly into the band's early dance club hit, "The Walk," its tempo slowed from tours past, while shifting bars of purple and blue intersect with the dancing synth-lines of this walk through The Cure's past.

The official fireworks display celebrating Independence Day suddenly burst into the heavens, the sky around us erupting into arcs and blossoms of multi-colored lights, dotting the horizon with quick bursts of ephemeral lights. Smith had to apologize "for forgetting the words to the song.... I was too busy, distracted by the fireworks. They were quite good, really, better than us." 

"The Cut" ended the set neatly, presenting The Cure's concert between the bookend tracks of "Open" and "Cut." The situation called for encores, a favorite time for surprises to those who consider themselves familiar with The Cure. Beginning with "Your House," a track from their second album, 17 Seconds, the music wound its way through "Charlotte Sometimes," which was bathed in blue bathos and littered with ghosts. Then came the Boy duet of "3 Imaginary Boys" that went into The Cure's first-ever single, "Boys Don't Cry."

A Jimi Hendrix sighting would not have seemed strange or out of place that night as Porl, Robert and new kid in The Cure, Perry Bamonte, wove their noise together in a musically blazing and stagelight-blinding finale.

Of course, we had to wait before anyone was allowed backstage. But this gave us ample opportunity to watch almost 30,000 people file out of the sports arena, a fascinating spectacle of happy people clad in Gothic gloom—and Zoë, wandering around with Novocain-zapped eyes.... Then at last we were led through a phalanx of doorways, ramps, gates and equipment stacks to a cleared area with chairs, tables and drinks. This is known as the "hospitality suite," and this is where, if the band feels like it, they can go and meet that small collection of press, fans and friends privileged enough to be wearing the right passes to navigate through the levels of security rivaled only by the Presidential Secret Service, it seems.

Robert was sick that night, and resting somewhere within the bowels of the backstage warren, so it was fortunate that Perry Bamonte peeked in and recognized us, joining us at the steel barriers separating the band's tent and their equipment trucks from everyone and everything else. After exchanging greetings and remembrances, Perry inquired about my writings in the field of fiction and my latest journalistic excursions.

Seizing the moment, I tossed a few quick questions about the new Cure tour and his much-altered place in The Cure family—Perry had for years been first a roadie and then lighting director for The Cure, as well as being a friend of the band for many years.

Q: It must feel great to have become a playing member of The Cure, recording the Wish record and being on stage for the Wish tour.

PERRY: Yeah, it's really great! Now, I'm one of the first to go home after a show instead of the last one to leave. It's healthier, that's for sure. Also, in The Cure we get to add our own parts to the music—tempos, accents.... I think our sound is a lot more driven and noisy now. The guitars are a lot more prominent than on the last couple of Cure tours. I think we're having a lot more fun on stage this time out, too.

Q: Oh, yeah! It's the most noisome Cure I've heard since the Pornography tour of America in 1981. It proves that The Cure are still innovative and still creating their own times and the sounds that go with them. Are you happy with it all, with the way the tour is going?

PERRY: Yes, very much so. It's still fun for us; we wouldn't do it otherwise. Though we're very separate and distinct individuals, we've evolved a sort of group mind with the music. It's a lot like science fiction, being in The Cure. What do you think? Do you like the sound?

Q: The sound was crystalline, expansive, with amazing depth. And it was matched by the formidable banks of fog and laser lighting. The stage, sound and effects are excellently designed and executed (by Britannia Row, the London-based company who did the Pink Floyd tour in Russia]. It almost did complete justice to The Cure's imagination.

(Porl waved to us and we met at the doorway, knowing that we only had a few minutes to speak before our private conversation nook would be discovered....)

Q: The tour booklet and the new space-shaped amoeba logo thing is brilliant! Your artwork has become so much of how The Cure is seen by millions of people. Do you have time to do your own work outside of The Cure? The last time we spoke you mentioned wanting to do gallery shows in London and then perhaps San Francisco. What's going on with all of that?

PORL: Nothing! In between writing music, touring, practice, interviews, etc., etc., etc., I've not had the chance to do much more than drawings, sketches, ideas caught on paper.... But I can't wait to be at home to start working on things when this tour is over. Let's see, it's July 4th and we'll go home for the holidays in December.... I'll be focused on this till then, but then we will take a year off to re-charge. I'll get to walk the dogs—I live in the country in Cornwall close to King Arthur's castle. Then, I'll put my energy into personal pursuits. Who knows what will come of it!

Q: Perry really loves the new, noisy-guitar Cure. It looks like you're having a lot of fun on stage. You're playing a lot more guitar and it sounds great! I have a feeling a lot of this noisy aggressiveness sound is due to your influence. Am I right?

PERRY: (laughing) I told Robert that if we had to go out again (on tour] one more time with Roger and his fucking banks of keyboards, I wouldn't do it. It got to be so old, and everything was buried in this grandiose, sweeping keyboard sound that was killing the subtle things, the nuances of The Cure's music. It was time for it to go and for us as a band to move on again. Yes, it's really fun this time out. This tour, we really do make a great noise!!

Backstage with The Cure next


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