By Nick Bequette
June 26, 2016
The Cure, close to wrapping up a North American tour celebrating 40 years of music, had a stop at Charlotte’s PNC Music Pavilion on Thursday night. My first impressions of the show: How on Earth does this band still sound so good? How in the hell does Robert Smith, at 57, still have the voice he had in 1989? Throughout their career, The Cure has quietly flown under the radar of the masses, only occasionally releasing a song that breaks through the static of Top 40 radio. They most certainly have not played it safe on this tour. Although the night was littered with familiar hits, there were just as many deep cuts and B-sides to keep the devoted and dedicated fans pleased. I picked six songs to describe how the night transpired.
“Pictures of You”
The sun had only just retired over the hill beyond the lawn area minutes before The Cure took to the stage. The entire seated area was instantly on their feet as the first chords of “Pictures of You,” from the 1989 album, Disintegration, was unleashed upon the crowd. It’s an unlikely opener with lyrics representing tremendous, heart-punching loss and longing. It quickly set a tone for an evening in which nothing was off limits.
While the majority of bands celebrating a 40 year run may fall into a comfortable setlist that changes very little, if at all, The Cure peppered each night’s set list with B-sides and tour premieres. While it would appear that whimsy and randomness play a large role in the order, every song fits with its predecessor and follower. “Lullaby” and “Fascination Street” played in the same order as they first appeared on Disintegration, for instance. “Lullaby,” a song of dread, of being eaten by a thousand million shivering holes, follows “Freakshow,” a song that turns similar haunting images into a jubilant celebration of the weird. During “Freakshow,” Robert Smith displayed his prowess of the cowbell and offered lessons to the crowd at its conclusion.
“It Can Never be the Same/Step Into the Light”
After a 19-song main set, The Cure left the stage briefly before beginning the first of four encores. “It Can Never Be the Same” is the first of two new songs played frequently on this tour. The second of the new material, “Step Into the Light,” was saved for the beginning of the third encore. For a night filled with so many easily recognizable and beloved songs, both new ones were well received by the thirsty Charlotte crowd.
“Just Like Heaven”
If you walked in during “Pictures of You” and listened through to the sixth song played, “Just Like Heaven,” only the hour would prevent it from seeming reasonable that you just heard the encore. It’s a true testament to the arsenal of songs they have in the canon– that a show can start with so many great songs. The band fired off songs that most other bands would have saved for later: “High,” “The End of the World,” “Lovesong,” and the tour debut of “Mint Car” which led into “Just Like Heaven,” perhaps the most recognized and jubilant song in their catalog.
Played only a handful of times throughout the tour, I imagine the temptation to play this in the Queen City was just too great to pass up. Although it was released as a single in 1981, it is not necessarily a familiar song to most. It was clear, however, that some in the crowd were anticipating its play, and the first few chords unleashed a gush of applause from the audience.
“Boys Don’t Cry”
I didn’t see many, but there were a few, that headed for the parking lot after the second encore. Perhaps they assumed a 40-year-old rock band would call it a night after playing a main set plus a two encores. The final song of the evening (the 33rd song of the night!!) was “Boys Don’t Cry,” one of the first of their songs to break through here in the states. It was a fitting end to a performance that had kept the crowd anticipating and guessing all night long.