Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Cure, Austin Music Hall

Despite a couple missed opportunities that are too ridiculous to go into here, I've previously only seen The Cure once. As a way to get fired up for the show, I made up a dream setlist as I drive to Dallas. As the encore began, I was struck with gleeful awe when I realized that they had played every damn song I wanted to hear! This is what I love about The Cure's live shows. They have a extensive career and dedicated fans, so play long shows with songs across their whole discography.

When my friend Dan heard that they were coming to Austin, and to the relatively small Austin Music Hall we were committed to going along with other friends. Tragedy struck when computer problems (?) or something prevented Dan from getting tickets for everyone and the show sold out. After seeing the setlists from this tour, I knew I couldn't miss out and so paid premium for ticket off eBay (grumble, grumble).

As the carload of friends drove to the show, we engaged in the witty banter that's a mainstay of our group (how frickin' self-agrandizing can I be? Ass). We speculated on the intricate goth outfits that were sure to be on display and then we rounded a corner to the sight of miles of black cloth and fishnets. As Chad put it, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Exhibit A."

Austin Music Hall has been extensively refurbished with more seating upstairs, a fancier entryway, better sound, and much improved intimate feel. After some nosing about, we set up downstairs about 30 feet from the stage. After a bland, boring opening act The Cure took the stage and blew us all away. Disintegration and Wish are about tied for my favorite albums and so opening with, well "Open" and then going right into "Fascination St." made me extremely happy. The show continued with plenty of songs from both albums with others sprinkled from across their career. It wasn't until they ripped into it that I remembered how much I love "Push" from Head on the Door (I re-listened to that CD later and rediscovered how great it is). "Catch" resulted in a happy emotional meltdown for Karen which was great fun to witness. During the show Dan and I confirmed out loud what was obvious, it had vaulted into our top ten concerts of all time.

Push from elsewhere on the tour

In Between Days

Sure Robert's put on a lot of weight and looks a bit silly with the make-up and hair at his age. This was balanced out by Porl Thompson ripped physique (how nice to have him back in the fold after years away and just killing on lead guitar) and the fact that Simon has not aged in 25 years. Jason the drummer isn't as good as Boris but I'm not complaining. They were in fine form. One of the coolest thing about the show is that they had no keyboards. All the synth lines were played on guitar by either Porl or Robert. I think The Cure uses keyboards very well, but it was invigorating to hear the songs without them.

From previous shows, we knew there would be at least two encores, but we still clapped and called for more. "M", "Play for Today" (and yes I sang the keyboard chorus melody), and "A Forest" just killed. Away to the wings, more clapping, and then back out for the highly anticipated run of seven songs from their 1st album. Even though I knew it was going to happen, it was still wonderful.

Jumping Someone Else's Train & Grinding Halt

After a 90 minute nap, I drove back to Austin tired but exhilirated for work the next morning. Absolutely worth the lack of sleep and jacked-up ticket price.

One last thing, coming so soon on the heels of the REM show in Berkeley it was inevitable that I'd compare the two. Both started off as "college" bands and broke into the mainstream before settling into the rock canon. Their best work is behind them but they both still write some good songs and play well. My estimation of these shows however is miles apart. REM played a good set to a rather flaccid audience who couldn't care less for older material. The Cure played a fantastic, almost three-hour show for a energetic audience filled with big fans. Blame it on the difference between Berkeley and Austin or the intimacy of the TX show to the outdoor venue in CA, or maybe the band themselves. Whatever reason, it certainly bumped up The Cure in my estimation.

The full setlist:

open, fascination street, alt.end, torture, the end of the world, lovesong, the big hand, pictures of you, lullaby, catch, the perfect boy, from the edge of the deep green sea, the figurehead, a strange day, sleep when i'm dead, push, doing the unstuck, inbetween days, just like heaven, primary, the only one, signal to noise, the hanging garden, one hundred years, end

E1: at night, m, play for today, a forest
E2: three imaginary boys, fire in cairo, boys don't cry, jumping someone else's train, grinding halt, 10:15 saturday night, killing an arab

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