Tuesday, 21 June 2011

a cure for writer's block (ahem..)

Shit - I have in mind to "formally" review the Cure at the Sydney Opera House for the Vivid Festival concert for "sweet one oh one" but I'm stuck in this quagmire of trying to make every sentence right, every word right, every passive phrase reversed so that the active is thrust out in front (always), and it's tiring me out like writer's quicksand. 

So this is it, the looser-uperer blog.  After this I'm hoping that I'll be able to draft that thing properly so that a formal review is written and that it gets posted and I can start earning big bucks for my efforts.  Why, my Neil Finn article has been sitting in the "sweet 1 oh one" for over six months now and already I've accumulated 40c.  

Ok. Cure.  Best concert ever.  They performed their first three albums with two intervals in between each album, coming back afterward for three encores.  It was...sensational.  I couldn't believe it was happening, but there it was.  I'd seen the Cure a few times before but this was special.  It was special for the auspiciousness of the occasion and for those classic, iconic albums they performed live.  It was also special because, for perhaps the first time in my life, I felt I was somewhere at a specific time and place where many people the world over wanted to be that very moment.  And I was there.  I'm not much of a patriot but that night I felt very wonderful to be in Sydney.

The bizarre thing about all this is that the night before finding out that the Cure were coming to perform at the Vivid festival, I decided to go into the Cure's facebook page for no reason other than I just had a feeling or hunch to read about what they were doing.  I read Robert's most recent update carefully, scrutinising it word for word; it read something along the lines of the Cure will play this x concert this year (not Vivid) and will not play absolutely any other concerts unless they are posted here (on Facebook)...and he went to elaborate to make the point very clear.  Why did I go into that page to which I've never actually done, and read and scrutinise and ponder that message?  The Vivid concerts were announced the very next day.  Well, I do have a sixth sense about things so I'll put it down to that.

I wasn't planning on going along.  A mate of mine insisted we try for tickets and by some miraculous fortune got hold of some.  I was very glad he did.  The Church played at the Opera House a couple of months beforehand and my inertia stopped me from ticket buying and going, to my regret.  But I did see the Cure instead, and it was utterly lovely.

Three Imaginary Boys: you have to realise that live music in 2011 is much different in sound quality to post-punk recordings of 1978/79.  You got to hear the music in all its lushness and flavour, particularly Smith's angular, often unusual chording.  The feel to this music was cold-climate, almost Nordic, with tangible, emotional mood and flavour.  The big difference was Simon Gallup's live bass-playing in contrast to the flamboyant, almost funky playing of original bassist Michael Dempsey who had originally recorded on the album.  Gallup, to his credit, maintained his weighty, leaden sound that is so integral to the Cure sound while gamely replicating all of the intricate runs of Dempsey's, minus perhaps a few of those funky octave flicks.  And he managed to maintain his low-slung bass poses and movements around the stage without compromising his style.  

You just had to be there for the intro, the first song, '10:15 Saturday night', the audience went nuts.

Seventeen Seconds and Faith: this is where the Cure really settled in a style that was uniquely their own. Seventeen Seconds is often regarded as the Cure's finest album.  Here we had Roger O'Donnell augment the previous trio with his piano.  He played those instrumentals passionately; these stood out in this live setting in contrast to their muted presence on record.  "Three" featured an improvised 'happy birthday Simon' from Robert.   The songs were alive, dense sounding, magnificent.  The crowd loved in particular 'A Forest', 'Play for today', 'At night'.   How the audience swooned when the opening notes on keyboard and then guitar were played on 'A Forest'!

The fervour carried into Faith with the crowd dancing away to 'Primary' and gaping at the sonic beauty of 'Other voices', 'All cats are grey', and the title-track 'Faith'.  For Faith the Cure were joined by co-founding member Laurence "Lol" Tolhurst, becoming now the Cure quintet.  He bashed away fervently at percussion and some keyboard, adding to the mix intensity, nostalgia and celebration.

And they came back for three encores, as a trio, quartet, and finally quintet.  They played the songs that made it onto the Boys Don't Cry album that weren't on Three Imaginary Boys such as the celebrated title track, the debut single 'Killing an Arab', 'Plastic Passion' and 'World War'.  They played all those early b-sides that Robert suggested "...you might know better than us" and one track off their fourth album, 'Hanging Garden'.

For their last encore Robert announced that "something funny happened after that last song" referring to the link that broke and then spawned the poppy/funky 'Let's go to Bed' after the severe Pornography album of a few months earlier.  'The Walk', 'Lovecats', and that was it.   A tremendous, magnificent concert.

They were special, he was special, still looking good from a distance with that handsome wide face, flat nose, large eyes and copious hair.  Most of all there is his gift for music-making that has found world-wide appeal.

During the intermissions I couldn't help but notice that people looked a little glum as they were standing in those crowded lines for their over-priced drinks (i bet Smithy didn't have to buy his drinks and he, if anyone, can afford them...).  People looked sad, distracted, the subtle nose out of joint look in the drink queues, a stark contrast to the concert hall mood.  I suppose people were glum that they weren't Robert Smith, that they didn't look like him, didn't have his hair, his money, his gift, and had to go to work the very next day in jobs they'd rather not be doing.  Oh well, nothing on the surface lasts.  Enjoy it while it's here.

It was a very special occasion.  I was very fortunate to go.  I look forward to it coming out on DVD at some point.

Paul Hewson shooting star

i'm in the sunshine A mate of mine produces a monthly songwriter newsletter which goes out to a hundred or so mainly Sydney-based...