Monday, June 23, 2008

The Cure at Madison Square Garden

This show was one of "those shows;" an opportunity to see a band live that I'd wanted to see for years. I'd tried once, about ten years ago during the Bloodflowers tour, but never got anywhere because I couldn't find someone to go with me (something that would change as the years passed and I discovered that live music can be such a primal thing for me that I'm not bothered if there's no else around I know to share it with). This show was even a bit of an aberration than other examples of "that show" - Emperor, Metallica, Megadeth (the first time around) - because the ticket practically fell into my lap a couple of weeks before the show. Boy was I glad I went.

Back in high school and the beginning of college, I fancied myself a composer on the make. I wasn't dedicated enough - in part because I couldn't conceive of the level of dedication needed to be really good - to be an outstanding musician, but I had ideas about music and a fascination with technology that I figured would serve me well enough instead. I did some cool things, learned some stuff, and made some music that was different than what other people were doing around me, culminating in 10 minute piece in three or four movements, scored up for computer-based synthesizers, that I wrote when I was a high school senior. It was a pretty sweet accomplishment, and still makes me feel good when I think about it.

Here's why I bring it up: 65 Days of Static, the band that opened up for The Cure, sounded exactly like what I was going for with my music at its peak. Surprisingly (or maybe not, because I don't really have much of an ego about my creations), seeing someone do my thoughts better than I ever could made me really happy, like how a director must feel when watching actors bring their vision to life - if, you know, the director had absolutely no connection to any part of the movie they were watching. Good stuff; made me want to start writing music again.

Then The Cure came on and played over thirty songs in three hours, bringing me back to the exact same time period I'd so recently inhabited while enjoying 65 Days of Static's set, to the times when I wasn't trying to write music and was mowing the lawn or wooing girls or doing homework or driving around. I put their music onto mix tapes (and later mix CDs), declared "The Kiss" one of my favorite pieces of noise ever, reveled in the mix of "Close to Me" with the Dixie horns that I found on Napster, and used "Night Like This" to help assuage a breakup. This band was a formative part of my experience, and here they were, playing all of those songs and a whole lot more right in front of me. It wasn't all perfect, but in a night full of good things that made me feel ten years younger, I have no desire to complain.

Two things that really struck me about this show:
  1. Robert Smith may look a bit worse for wear, but I couldn't tell the difference between his voice on Friday night and his voice on, say, Show, which comes from recordings made in 1992. What's even more impressive is that he still sounded just as good at the end of the show. I've gotten use to cutting older metal singers (Geoff Tate, Rob Halford, James LaBrie, even Bruce Dickinson to an extent) some slack when it comes to performing their earlier material, because their vocal cords are too damaged by age and years of the rock 'n roll lifestyle to hit those high notes with the same precision they had when younger, and I expected to do so with Smith, too, so (and even with the caveat of having less demanding material to sing) I was really surprised about how good he sounded.

  2. No keyboards for this show whatsoever. I think I might have heard an organ piped in for "Close to Me," but otherwise Robert and Porl Thompson orchestrated all of the necessary keyboard parts to guitar and cut the rest. It didn't always work properly - "Hot Hot Hot!!!" sounded a little thin without the fake horns, for example - but mostly it was cool to hear the parts transposed to guitar. I'm not sure why the band didn't just hire a touring keyboard player, but maybe that would have hindered putting all of those songs into one set.
Set List for The Cure
  1. underneath the stars
  2. prayers for rain
  3. a night like this
  4. the end of the world
  5. lovesong
  6. to wish impossible things
  7. pictures of you
  8. lullaby
  9. fascination street
  10. from the edge of the deep green sea
  11. the perfect boy
  12. hot hot hot!!!
  13. the only one
  14. wrong number
  15. the walk
  16. sleep when i'm dead
  17. push
  18. friday i'm in love
  19. inbetween days
  20. just like heaven
  21. primary
  22. shake dog shake
  23. charlotte sometimes
  24. one hundred years
  25. baby rag dog book
Encore 1
  1. E1: if only tonight we could sleep...
  2. the kiss
Encore 2
  1. freakshow
  2. close to me
  3. why can't i be you?
Encore 3
  1. boys don't cry
  2. jumping someone else's train
  3. grinding halt
  4. 10:15 saturday night
  5. killing an arab

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