Nostalgia was in full swing last night as ’80s alt rock icons The Cure played a 3 hour set filled with hits, deep cuts and rarities to an almost sold out Bell Centre. Their leader Robert Smith was a man of few words as the band lined up song after song without much pause. The hits brought the crowd to its feet, the lesser known tracks got enthusiastic yet polite applause and a new song didn’t draw much reaction, but it was still a love fest for most present.
There was a lot of singing along, dancing in the aisle and even the occasional smell of weed in the crowd. The presentation was very simple, with the band playing in front of a barrier of amplifiers. A 5 panel screen at the back displayed various projections while two screens on each side of the stage fed the images of two static cameras that never seemed to show anything interesting.
For die hard fans, the setlist was just like heaven, but for casual fans, the pacing was a little problematic, with long stretches of lesser known songs. Newcomer Reeves Gabrel on guitar (who way back when played in Tin Machine with the late David Bowie) added an interesting dimension to the material, but the bass heavy sound mix made it hard to appreciate all the textures. The band gave the songs a harder edge that pushed them towards rock; stripped of their ’80s trappings, it really showed how strong the songwriting is.
The band played 30 songs over 3 hours, including 4 (!) encores that totaled 14 songs! I’ve seen bands play shorter sets than The Cure’s encores. Again, this decision affected the pacing as people left after each encore, which is a shame as the 4th one brought down the house with vigorous renditions of “Hot Hot Hot!!!”, “Let’s Go to Bed”, “Close to Me”, “Why Can’t I Be You?” and “Boys Don’t Cry”. I’m not sure beating traffic was worth missing that.
If this is truly their farewell tour, they’re going out in style. I’m just a casual Cure fan (actually, is there a more casual word than casual?) but they offered a solid and generous performance that sets the bar for any veteran act still selling tickets in their fourth decade.