When you have a back catalogue that spans the best part of forty years, you’d be forgiven for playing a completely different set of tracks each night and mixing everything up. You’d also be forgiven for favouring less popular tracks over fan favourites, even if you did have three hours’ worth of time to play them. Luckily for The Cure, the latter scenario here isn’t an issue. The Robert Smith fronted outfit last night performed in front of a sold out crowd at Amsterdam’s 17,000 capacity Ziggo Dome, with not a single new song being pulled out of the bag during their first proper European tour in over four years. What did they did pull out of the bag, though, was a greatest hits set like no other. It incorporated deep cuts, fan favourites and the biggest hits all in equal doses for a set which lasted nothing short of three full hours.
Scottish trio The Twilight Sad have been touring as The Cure’s special guests for a while now, with most recent record Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave featuring predominantly alongside cuts from older record No One Can Ever Know during the band’s 45-minute set. Embracing elements of post-punk revival and new wave head on, James Alexander Graham and co. managed to encapsulate the near-full arena from start to finish. Opening on a pulsating and rhythmic Reflection of the Television, the Glaswegian outfit further pulled off an eclectic rendition of the stabbing Last January and melancholic There’s a Girl in the Corner. Frontman Graham is a beastly force to be reckoned with, with his manic hand movements and obscure movements complementing the band’s “out of the box” post-punk. Ending the set on a magnificent rendition of And She Would Darken the Memory, it instantly became clear that The Twilight Sad aren’t a band for the light-hearted music fan. They’re a band who aren’t afraid to hit you in the face with a pummelling force of dark rhythms, moody vocals and stabs of energy in all the right places. Graham and co. put in 100% effort, regardless of whether the crowd necessarily respond or not. It will definitely be quite some time before a band like The Twilight Sad could take on a venue this size by themselves, but it’s definitely not out of the question.
A thirty minute switchover made way for Crawley’s finest, The Cure. As Robert Smith and his band (bassist Simon Gallup, keyboardist Roger O’Donnell, drummer Jason Cooper and guitarist Reeves Gabrels) took to the stage following a taped intro, the crowd didn’t quite know what to expect. That’s the thing with The Cure, though. Their live sets are full of surprises, something particularly evident in the way they mix up their sets on a nightly basis. The majestic Open kicked off the 30-song long set in hypnotic fashion, with a spiralling backdrop literally setting the crowd in a 17,000-strong trance. This wasn’t the only time the crowd were entranced either, with following cuts A Night Like This, Other Voices and the pulsating 39 all altering the crowd’s state of mind by means of mesmerising synth lines, effects-laden guitars and Gallup’s energetic basslines (all of which saw him literally gallop across the stage). Despite all the energy going on around him, Smith remained statue-like for a majority of the set, seldom moving away from his microphone as he commanded the crowd in the same way that he always has done – with little effort, but with plenty of effectiveness. And by hell did it work, because the crowd were on absolute top form for the duration of the set. Regardless of it being a deep cut from Bloodflowers (such as The Last Day of Summer) or classic tracks Friday I’m in Love and Close to Me, the crowd reacted with utmost enthusiasm and energy. It’s not very easy to spot a Cure fan out on the streets, however within the confines of the Ziggo Dome it was very clear what kind of crowd the band attracted: men older than 40 with a lack of hair who either came with their wife or with a child who they’re trying to push into the direction of new wave and post-punk. And this is fantastic, because it’s fans like this who are responsible for breeding new generations of The Cure fans. If it weren’t for these fans, Smith and co. would still be running around in continuous circles playing for the same people.
Closing the main set on End, and utilizing the same hypnotic swirls as on Open, Smith and co. brought the first half of the show to an end after a short fifteen songs. People started walking out in expectance of the show being over, yet little did they know that the band returned to play not one, not two, but three encores which ended up spanning a whole 90 minutes. The first encore focussed on tracks from 1980’s Seventeen Seconds album, with the jangly M, brooding A Forest and hazy At Night all featuring and shining. The second encore sped up the time machine ever so slightly by a few years, before the show’s closing salvo pulled out the band’s biggest hits. The catchy-yet-dark Lullaby opened the band’s final return, utilizing groovy basslines and visceral guitar stabs as a means of accompaniment to Smith’s ever-recognizable vocal tone. Even after 25 songs, his voice doesn’t sound worn and it’s only further testament to the band’s success and longevity. The Cure have always been an incendiary live act, and their Amsterdam show is a perfect example. Friday I’m In Love appeared later on, inciting unsurprisingly enthusiastic reactions from the crowd as a double-whammy of Boys Don’t Cry and Close to Me made way for show closer Why Can’t I Be You? Three hours after taking to the stage, Robert Smith and co. once again proved their worth as a successful live band with plenty of years left in the Energy-o-meter. Whether or not they’ll definitely release a new album in 2017 remains to be seen, however what they do will undoubtedly put the band right back on the map following a four year absence.
The band’s European tour will continue at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris tomorrow (15 November). All pictures courtesy of Luuk Denekamp.