Show Review: The Cure in Kansas City at the Starlight Theatre, Monday, May 19

May 20, 2008 at 5:00 pm

The Cure May 19, 2008 The Starlight Theatre Better Than: Sitting in a dark basement, shrouded in candlelight, listening to the Cure. By Annie Zaleski

Dear Diary,

Oh my goth. Last night I saw the Cure for the very first time. I wasn’t the biggest fan growing up – my heart belonged to Morrissey as a mopey teenager, you see – but the older I get, the more I appreciate the breadth and depth of the band’s catalog.

After a quick four-hour drive to Kansas City from St. Louis, I raced to the bathroom to apply my dark lipstick. (MAC Viva Glam, natch.) Shit. Smeared it a bit on my lower lip. “Fuck it!” I thought. “I’ll just look more like Robert Smith!” Sat through the U.K. instrumental act 65Daysofstatic, who are perhaps the loudest band I’ve ever heard. Like an industrial version of Explosions in the Sky – or a perfect match for Placebo – the synth-terrorists created a sonic boom of sound that was mixed at almost painful levels, even with earplugs. Still, they were a nice enough diversion for a half-hour set.

And then, before it was even dark – how odd -- The Cure came onstage! Guitarist Porl Thompson sported fetching, red high heels and a sheer shirt/vinyl pants get-up that was trés chic fetishwear. Wiry, ageless Simon Gallup, the group’s long-time bassist, hunkered down at stage left. Drummer Jason Cooper, looking a little bit like Bryan Adams, settled in behind his kit. And finally Robert Smith strode onstage. Often (not so nicely) nicknamed Fat Bob, he instead looked like a giant goth teddy bear, his artfully bed-headed hair matching an all-black ensemble.

click for slideshow Photo by Scott Spychalski; click for slideshow, courtesy of the Pitch

Things started off unsteadily, with a lumbering new song and a downright painful, boring “Pictures of You.” Smiths vocals were – to put this nicely – scraggly, as if he almost forgot the words to the songs. But then the icon got on the mic and quipped something about “Serge Gainsbourg does the Cure,” explaining that he was having voice troubles. My heart sank. Voice troubles! How on earth could he hit the high notes on the the early songs, or soar to swooning heights on the band’s swirling ambient moments?

And truth be told, he couldn’t. While there were moments of brilliance – The Head on the Door’s “Push” was a sparkling, joyous romp, while he mustered a feral howl at the end of the shuddering Pornography highlight “100 Years” – his rickety vocals cast a pallor (and not the good kind) over the show. “Just Like Heaven” was weaksauce, while a slow-as-molasses version of “Primary” underscored his rapidly disintegrating voice.

To his credit, Smith didn’t do the schmaltzy thing and point the microphone toward the crowd and let them sing the songs. Bless his heart, he was so upset, though! Just before the encore – prompted by what, I’m not sure – he spat, “I know I can’t fucking sing, but you play the songs!” A few unintelligible sentences later: “Next time we come back, it’ll sound sweeter.” I felt so bad for him!

His frustration likely mounted because the Cure’s current trek is basically a greatest-hits tour. The band has a new album due in September, but it played a few new songs, including “The Only One” and “The Perfect Boy.” (Both hark back to 1992’s Wish -- thankfully, the good, non-cheesy songs from that poppiest of albums.) Otherwise, the setlist included tracks spanning their entire career, which requires quite a bit of vocal stamina and range.

The rest of the Cure picked up any slack for Smith’s troubles, however. Gallup prowled around like a sly fox and brought some serious funk to the band, with skyscraping basslines anchoring “Lullaby,” “The Walk” and “Hot Hot Hot!!!” “Never Enough” was a glam-bam Sweet/T. Rex homage – and OMG, Smith even ditched his guitar and walked around onstage during the tune! – and “Love Song” featured a slightly re-worked guitar line that made the tired single vibrant. Chestnut “Shake Dog Shake” and newer tune “Wrong Number” also stood out as sterling examples of grinding psychedelic rock.

Probably due to his vocal troubles, we only received two encores, although both sets redeemed the night. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’s “The Kiss” was a loud, impressive choice to end the first post-show set. (Aside: KC, yes, you should spark up doobies during that song, but not during “Friday, I’m in Love.” WTF?)

Encore two was even better, because it exclusively contained tunes from Boys Don’t Cry (the U.S. version of their 1979 debut, Three Imaginary Boys). “Boys Don’t Cry” was s-l-o-w – and mediocre -- but “Grinding Halt,” “Jumping Someone Else’s Train,” “10:15 Saturday Night” and “Killing an Arab” were raw, punky and ferocious.

Losing my Cure virginity wasn’t as painful as I feared it would be, although I think my expectations were a wee bit too high. However, the show did leave me wanting more and wouldn’t prevent me from seeing the band again – and so in that sense, I’m satisfied with the show I saw.

Black Tears and Kisses, Annie

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I was bummed that “Play for Today,” “Close to Me,” “Why Can’t I Be You?” and “Fascination Street” were not performed. However, I was even more bummed that people were talking so damn loud around me. A dude behind me wearing a Van Halen shirt (who was stoked that he recognized “Love Song”) and his pal could be heard over the band and my earplugs. Two random yapping girls also started to ruin encore one. However, all shut up when I summed my Inner Bitch and told them politely to please not talk so loudly. At least KC is polite. Random Detail: Even the handicapped parking spaces at the Starlight decided to be goth last night.

By the Way: Amanda Myers, random happy drunk stranger beside me, wanted this quote in the piece: “I’ve been cured by Robert Smith!”

Set List: (with thanks to this site for a few changes)

“Prayers for Rain”New Song “Pictures of You” “A Night Like This” “The Walk” “End of the World” “Love Song” “To Wish Impossible Things” “Lullaby” “Hot Hot Hot!!!” “The Only One” (new song) “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” (95% sure) “A Strange Day” “Push” “Friday I’m In Love” “In Between Days” “Just Like Heaven” “Primary” “Shake Dog Shake” “Never Enough” “Perfect Boy” (new song) “Wrong Number” “100 Years” “Disintegration” (not sure – I think) New song?

Encore One “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep” “The Kiss”

Encore Two “Boys Don't Cry” “Jumping Someone Else's Train” “Grinding Halt” “10:15 Saturday Night” “Killing an Arab”