- by Jim Cunnar Rating: Release Date: Label:
1989 was an amazing year for music, but no day was more important than May 2. On that day, two iconic albums were released to the world - the eponymous debut of the Stone Roses and The Cure’s Disintegration. Sydney, Australia was able to secure the 30th anniversary celebration of Disintegration by booking The Cure to play a five-night residency at their world-famous Opera House, which coincides with the start of Vivid Festival, Sydney’s annual celebration of lights and culture.
The crowd was as generationally diverse as any show I’ve seen. From 50 year old parents with their teenage kids to 70 year old Glen from Melbourne, who had seen The Cure in 1980 for the Seventeen Seconds tour, we entered the opera house to the sound of rain and crashing thunder, an ironic backdrop for the smiles and excitement that permeated the hall. The stage was minimalistic, with amps draped with cobwebs and the word BAD written in white tape on an amp stage left.
At about 8:30 local time, the lights dimmed. Unlike 30 years ago, when the stage was enveloped in fog and all you could see was Smith's hair, the band came out to deafening applause and a meek “Hello” from Smith. To Smith's right was lead guitarist Reeves Gabrels, with longtime bassist Simon Gallup and keyboardist Roger O’Donnell to his left. Jason Cooper and his lion’s mane of hair were behind the kit, overlooking the entire production like a conductor.
Sounding as taught as ever, Smith and Co. dove into seven Disintegration-era deep cuts which were featured on the multi-CD box set Join The Dots. These were an absolute treat, highlighted by the obscure instrumental “Esten”. Instantly, you could tell this song was from the Disintegration sessions, reminding us that what makes this band special isn’t just Smith’s vocals but their incredible musicianship. “Babble” and “2 Late” were also featured, two songs which I still cannot believe didn’t make it onto a full-length player.
The main event, Disintegration in its entirety, was spellbinding. Seeing The Cure perform these songs makes you realize how integral Boris Williams’ percussion and Roger O’Donnell’s mood-defining synths were to the original recording. On the title track, Cooper was an absolute dervish, looming above everyone with his right foot booming away, allowing Gallup to prowl the stage with his low-slung bass and Smith to command his faithful legions as we sang the lyric “I miss the kiss of treachery” back to him.
The three-song encore included “Burn”, off The Crow soundtrack, and to all of our surprise, “Three Imaginary Boys”. Smith and Gallup had a full 45 second discussion, deciding to step away from the theme of the concert to announce that it was also the 40 year anniversary of the release of the song. It was as much a treat for O’Donnell as it was for us, who smiled through the entire song as he played tambourine off to the side. Ending with the Wendy Waldman cover “Pirate Ships”, a soft and gentle maritime song, the crowd stood and showered Smith and his mates with a thunderous ovation. As the band made their way off stage, all that was left was Smith, standing in the spotlight with his wry smile intact, as the 2000+ fans bestowed upon him the adoration he rightly deserved.
The themes of Disintegration may be heavy, but these shows in Sydney have been anything but. They are a celebration that we survived the life gauntlet, something that isn’t lost on Robert Smith. His smile as he played for us is proof of that.
As we left, walking down the wide stairs of the opera house, the opening chimes of “Plainsong” played over the speakers, echoing across Sydney Harbor. For all the doom and gloom that people associate with The Cure, the final thing Robert left us with was a feeling of pure joy, love, and appreciation.
This is your best review yet! I love that last paragraph.