A jaunty Robert Smith led The Cure through a superb gig at Malahide in Dublin, writes Ed Power
The Cure have always existed in their own Tim Burton-esque expanded universe: a pop neverland suffused in dry ice and gloom, full long shadows and even longer pouts. So it was ever so slightly jarring to see Robert Smith on stage in a leafy park in north County Dublin, that famous cobwebbed hair catching the sunlight.
He was paler than a bottle of milk at midnight, of course, his iconic mop pointed in 10 directions at once. But a smile played across his face as he led his melancholy men through a twinkling, two and a half hour overview of The Cure’s career.
It was a snapshot of the band at their most multi-faceted, lurching between monochrome punk, indie-disco floor-fillers and playful chart pap. All of it was lapped up by a veteran crowd, who’d dug out their ancient festival wellies and were making full use of the onsite prosecco bar.
Thirty years have elapsed since The Cure released their landmark album Disintegration. They acknowledged the occasion recently by playing the record in its entirety in Sydney. In Dublin, by contrast, they were keen to shine a light on less heralded nuggets from their catalogue.
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These included the rumbling Shake Dog Shake, from 1984’s The Top, with which they opened the set. Later came Burn from the soundtrack to The Crow (which has its 25th anniversary this year) and, from 1992’s Wish, From The Edge of the Deep Green Sea and Wendy Time (they haven’t performed the latter since the early Nineties).
With Smith howling and crooning flamboyantly and guitarist Reeves Gabrels (one of Bowie’s 1990s sidemen) conjuring huge spiralling riffs, the band presented a study in glum tempestuous (though standing half way between the sound-desk and the stage the vocals dropped occasionally). More surprising was the frontman’s top-level jauntiness.
“We do actually rehearse,” he joked at one point. At other moments, as the performance built towards mountains of mournfulness, he would just take a step back and grin. It was the first night of a busy summer of outdoor shows and he was evidently relishing it.
The Cure had marked this rare Irish date by essentially curating a mini-festival. The Twilight Sad and Ride provided by turns angst-splashed and nostalgia-slathered support. And then – tick, tick tick – it was time for Smith and his soldiers of despondency.
The hits, when they come, arrived in a sugary rush. Lovesong and Just Like Heaven fought off the sunshine and swept you off to some dark indie disco of the soul; In Between Days and A Forest spoke to the breadth of Smith’s writing as they hopscotched between big-hearted alternative pop and goth histrionics.
The encore meanwhile inevitably packed in Lullaby, Friday I’m In Love and Boys Don’t Cry. Night had by now fallen. But with Malahide having basked in The Cure’s magnificent gloom all evening, the onrushing darkness felt entirely surplus to requirements.