Saturday, 19 November 2011

Reflections of Reflections. The Cure at The Albert Hall

For a good few weeks I've been frightening members of the public with Cure hysteria. I've never loved anything more or as much as I love The Cure. It's quite dangerous really. But now to wish impossible things has come true. (If you aren't a Cure fan or have issues with people who reaaaaaly love bands I maybe wouldn't read this detailed synopsis of their Reflections gig)

The sound of bird song being played across the vast, circular room is suddenly replaced by Robert Smith's voice swimming amongst the smell of anticipation that clings to the hairspray of a thousand devoted fans. "Hello. This is 1979. Talk more later" The three piece hurtle into 10:15 Saturday Night, jumping and climbing to an almighty guitar solo. Plucking the strings like part of a surgical operation, the song promises an unforgettable evening. Counting in to Grinding Halt, the energy rises and the band feed the masses with teasing, punk inspired aggression and an inescapable finishing beat. Groaning and thrashy, Object chants of confusion and desire. Sung with more experience and wisdom, Robert acts as the puppet master to his teenage self. The songs don't appear too stuck in the past either, they could even be appropriate to any time. A quivering harmonica now brings Subway Song creeping into the air with a snarling sense of mystery and un-easiness, Simon Gallup leaping through the mist like a shadow, with a heavy bass suggesting footsteps in a chase. Foxy Lady is unique excellence, one of the only acceptable covers due to it's complete re-invention. "I didn't think I'd ever be playing that song in this building. But then I didn't think we'd be doing an awful lot of things that we've done since this album came out!" Fake golden flames then crawl around the stage, licking the drum kit as Fire In Cairo is played joyously, the chanting chorus thrown around the hall and back. A wonderfully passionate and angry It's Not You later and Three Imaginary Boys is complete with The Weedy Burton "somehow stuck on the end". I'm left feeling something I don't quite remember. Happiness, amazement, wholesomeness. I'm not too sure. Although only last Tuesday, the entire event seems distant and unclear. I've decided I simply mustn't be ready to accept that I've seen The Cure just yet. But that's not all for now, we have Seventeen Seconds and Faith to discuss first.

Thinking the interval was at least 15 minutes, I'm at the merchandise stall restraining from stealing a cardboard cut out of Robert Smith's face when I hear the sound of cheers welcoming him back to the stage. Me and stairs don't get on but when I have motif as great as that I'm skipping three at a time. Back to the celebrations of 1980 and there's little time to catch my breath and rearrange the back combing before Play For Today kick starts into an incredibly important and cracklingly rhythmic piece that takes me back to the first time I ever experienced Staring at the Sea, about 4 Christmas' ago. It has an urgently melodic sound that runs and escalates to collide with Robert's lyrics of frustration and the expectations within relationships. Secrets, haunting, gorgeous, enchanting and honest is then performed as if itself is being shared as a secret. A secret between the band and about 4500 others. Clear white smoke then engulfs Simon's legs, in the lilac low lighting, Robert's voice whispers solemnly and truthfully "I wish I was yours". The intimacy of that song felt like those 4500 were just relaxing in a small bedroom with Rob in the early 80's. The ability The Cure have to capture such a range of emotions as love, hate, loss, confusion, joy and to convey that to an audience through just three main instruments and a keyboard is baffling. Simon sneaks through the spot light, prowling as Robert's voice, dull and soft sings In Your House, creating a feel of wanting to be lost somewhere safe. And then it starts. A Forest. Suggestive, dark, ghostly, possibly one of the most intensive song introductions ever. And then the renowned, infectious ending to the story with the most pulsating final beat that echoes around the fixtures, closing the story. Now M. My favourite. M for melodic, magical, majestic, magnificent, marvelous, moving. If I was hit by any song so far, it was that one. I remember first hearing it and being overwhelmed, when they played it I think I even grinned through a few little tears. Beautiful. I keep banging on about Simon but the bass in At Night was incredible! It thundered round the venue like the integral heartbeat of The Cure. Then Seventeen Seconds itself was done brilliantly, a perfect ending to a wonderful album "OK we're just off for one year, see you in 10 minutes"

By now I think I needed a break. Not only to digest what I'd just seen but mainly to prepare myself for Faith. Not the album. The Song. No song in the world has ever effected me in the way that Faith does. The reason for it's profound effect on me is consequently down to the live version on Disintegration remastered. Faith (Live in Rome 06-04-89 crowd bootleg) It happens at 9 minutes 04. The Scream. I never fail to become corrupted by how much extra intensity and emotion and feeling Robert pours into the elongated versions of the song. (typing in faith 89 to Youtube brings good results) He creates tales on the spot and just slots them in, singing with such force and brutality and power it's inevitable not to completely absorb yourself in the atmosphere he creates. I always wonder exactly what he means in the on the spot lyrics, something a long the lines of someone pushing a gun to his mouth "I'm gonna ask you a question and if you say no, I'll shoot the back out of your fucking head. Do you love me? Do you love me?" It's chilling. I remember one night I thought I finally deciphered it. The only way to understand is to experience it. I was really stressed and everything was piling up, I was crying and it was all emotional and I think I'd just been listening to the song beforehand, once I'd calmed down I sort of understood what being involved in such a painful situation could be like. When you're feeling terrible every bad thing becomes exaggerated and you see yourself as the problem. I think the man that walks into the room holding the gun is how Robert sees himself in those moments. He is the barrier, symbolizing pressure. "He's so much bigger than you and says 'shut your fucking face!'" as if the issues with himself hold a bigger un manageable force upon him. I'm not sure. All I know is that that's the song. It just does it.

And so after leaving us listening to the sound of rain trickling, they're back and this is it. It starts here with The Holy Hour and Primary. Simon's at it again, the bass is pounding and the drums have a feel of great importance and character, all the songs sound alive and thriving, even on the album, but there's another dimension live. With the lights and smoke and people and smells and feelings and just The Cure's aura. This album has it. Faith has imagery and attitude and a backbone. It's like the frustrated, jumpy child of Disintegration. There's a haunting presence to it, especially with Roberts almost possessed screams in the great Other Voices, outstretching his arms shouting "Your allwaaaaaaaaays, wrong." almost moaning as if he feels guilty after having moved on. Doubt sounds faster and more violent and energized, that and The Drowning Man leading us steadily into the climax of Faith. When it begins I step back and try not to think of anything, I try and make myself believe that it is really them in front me and that I really have just seen an eclectic and perfectly performed mixture of some of my favourite songs, I try not to again think negatively about the lack of interest and enthusiasm shown by the man next to me, I don't think about recording a video because I know I need to be there with the song. That familiar on going guitar slows everything down. Surprisingly, I cope extremely well. My main feeling is one of realisation that The Cure are extremely talented men who make extremely wonderful music and who are extremely generous enough to provide us with that music and how incredibly lucky I was to be experiencing it live. Listening to The Cure takes you into an entirely different place of mind until the only thing you're aware of is not how exactly you got there and not how exactly you'll get out but simply that you're there. All I needed to see The Cure was faith. All anyone ever needs is faith.

'Another Journey By Train'

Just as Subway Song plays, the train pulls away from Darlington and the sun shines through the station's glass roof.
The train jumps and the dusk sets. The sun quickly falls through the sky.

I'm watching the sky go dark and trying to prepare myself for the euphoria that's about to commence.
My pilgrimage to experience The Cure has begun.
that was all very dramatic