I'm on the Airport Express which is just passing through Tsing Yi. Outside, dusk is, er "dawning" if you like. The sky is a swirl of black and blue, reminiscent of a rare rainless night in Blade Runner World. The landscape is studded with large indistinct blobs that can only be industrial factories. They're dotted with orange halogen pinpricks which seem smeary to me like Van Gogh's Sunflowers. The horizon looks like it would if you were, say, 20 miles high. It's stark, doomy, gothic, even. Just the right visual cue to set the mood for A Night With The Cure. (Monday 30/6/07)
About 3000 people, ranging in style from just-left-the-office to near full-blown gothpunk, have gathered at the AsiaWorld-Arena for this debut show by the "Godfather of Goth", Robert Smith. The other 3 members of the quartet are Porl Thompson, who's Smith's brother-in-law, on lead guitar. Then, there's bassist Simon Gallup and long-time drummer Jason Cooper. The stage is at the top of a large "U" with seats ranged around the other 3 sides and a dancing/standing room only area within the "U". The word is out that the Cure will probably do a 3-hour set. I've managed to spot Lamma acquaintances, Ciaran and Elinor, Chi, the drummer with local band The Sinister Left and Teddy. All say they're expecting a good show. The warm up tunes include "Einstein a Go-Go" by Landscape and "Run, Run, Run" by the Velvet Underground. Another track seems quite indie-baggie, with samples from the film "Performance" layered throughout. Quite an eclectic mix and a harbinger of glories to come.
The lights shift at about 2015 and a loud space bass erupts from the stage along with some noodly guitar and atmospheric FX. Could almost be an ambient track on a Buddha Bar CD. It carries on for several minutes as the crowd round me desert their seats and rush towards the stage. The lyrics are obscure, but there's some mention of "House of Love" which draws cheers from the more aware fans. I've known of The Cure since their 70's inception, but am not fanatical about collecting everything. I'd say about 80% of this show is unknown songs to me plus a healthy dollop of "Bloody hell, I didn't know they did this song" at frequent intervals. I'm just hoping to hear "A Forest" and everything else is a double-plus bonus. The 4th tune features some wonderful flamenco-style guitar and big thumpy drums over a snatch of vocals proclaiming "I'm paralysed by the thought (later blood) of Christ". The band seem to have caught the fine balance between a rock gig and a mega-rave, especially when I close my eyes.
The hits and big beats all come in quick succession. Basically the show veers from space-dub frenzy with guitars on stun to the quirky love ballads to gothpunkfunk. There seems to be about a 20-minute cycle of ups and downs, noise and quiet, rock and pop. Sometimes, Robert is playing guitar, sometimes he's striding to the sides of the stage to engage the fans while Porl and Simon bounce around energetically. Jason is sensational on drums. At times he recalls the late Pete deFreitas (of The Bunnymen) with ripples and rolls weaving through the song structure. Sometimes, there a Bonzo influence or a bit of Keith Moon whimsy as well. The light show is mainly the full spectrum of spotlights jabbing at the audience, winking in and out of existence. The big regret for me is that there are no video screens like there were for Muse and Roger Waters.
A high point of the show has been reached. The band have done 14 numbers including "Without You" and Robert announces "Wrong day, wrong time" and everyone is promptly singing along to "Friday, I'm In Love". Triple horripilatory tingles all around and still the hits keep coming. Another snatch of lyric "...show me how you do it, I'll run away from you" sounds like vintage House of Love. Other tracks blend Bauhaus and the Mission while one tune descends through Eastern modalities and snarling guitars chasing their tails like a Siamese-twin-cat fight. Another track with the refrain "Never enough" could almost have been done by Aerosmith in their heavy druggy daze. There's Sabbath-style riffing and massive prog drums as Robert chants "don't let it ever rain" No, wait, now it's shivery Tinkerbell shimmers of guitar, straight out of the Flaming Lips. No, now it's gone all space Celticfolk, like the late lamented Horslips. The FX pedals are getting a major work out tonight folks.
Another massive cheer as the refrain "wave after wave after wave" crashes round the hall. The band veers from some Primal Scream touches to glamrock goth as the strobes flurry and fluster and disorientate.Robert is ranting about "...white, green and tangerine and I'm sick of orange" It's coming up to 2235 and Robert tells us "this is the longest set we've ever played in our fucking lives". By my (probably faulty) count, the band have played about 29-30 songs by the time they leave the stage at 2240. They return after 5 minutes to a greedy and unsatiated audience and Robert says "right, ready for another 3 hours?" Obviously a rhetorical question. There's another 6 songs to go, split over 3 encores. They include "A Forest" (finally!) and "Why Can't I be You?" (because there ain't no vacancies mate I think abstractly). The final encore includes "Boy's Don't Cry" and a chimy 80's style guitar track that sounds like an outtake from the "Pretty in Pink" soundtrack. "And That Is It. Thank You Very Much" says Robert. The lights go on and The Cure have finished a stunning 3-hour show that touches all bases and firmly enhances their reputation. They're #2 in my Best Gigs of 2007. Roger Waters has still set the standard and Muse have dropped to #3 in the list. Now bring on Nine Inch Nails (and possibly Napalm Death!)
Review by Nick L.