A few months back, if anyone had been laying odds on a Summer artistic renaissance, The Cure surely wouldn’t even have figured in the reckoning. What with Robert Smith off doing his bit as a part-time Banshee and collaboration with Severin under the banner of The Glove, Lol Tolhurst denouncing his drum kit and starting on keyboards from scratch, Simon Gallup quitting altogether, no live action for nearly 14 months and the last single, “Let’s Go To Bed”, proving a half-hearted and unsuccessful disappointment, The Cure were, to all intents and purposes, widely considered a lost cause.
Strange, then, that when or if July ’83 is at all remembered popwise, two peaks will belong to The Cure. The first, a fragile, hallucinating shock hit single called “The Walk”, acts as a timely reminder that, even off-beam, Smith still figures among our acutest sensory autobiographers, vividly imparting his brooding introversion with all the organized passion of Ian McCulloch and some of the clipped authority of Siouxsie.
The second, last weekend’s retrospective at the Elephant Fayre, was testament that not only does the spirit of The Cure still exist despite (or because of ?) its creators extra curricular activities, but that in the risky corporate decision to ration its action, The Cure positively thrives.
The Elephant Fayre, no matter what anybody feared beforehand, was not some Philistine promotional cash-in by a hastily concocted line-up. Far from it. After two warm-up (sweat out!) club dates, this temporary Cure functioned inspirationally, often on adrenaline alone, and achieved what few gigs on the last Cure tour managed – to convince the crowd that Smith’s obsessions are worth investigation.
Still scarred, but recovered from the sapping monotony of that last tour (which incidentally, very nearly did scupper The Cure), Smith responded energetically to the challenge of coaxing and cajoling a novice band through a set of songs obviously sacred to the thousands of spellbound Cure fans who’d made the trek south west. More animated and eagerly expressive than most of us can ever remember, Smith flirted with disaster and came through smiling.
Without trotting out the usual platitudes about performing on the edge evincing more stimulation that strict rehearsal, it’s true that this experimental Cure was the most eloquent ever. Andy Anderson is a magnificently muscular and sensitive drummer, producer Phil Thornally is a nervy bassist reveling in the opportunity to indulge in a little exhibitionism, and Lol is still a basic keyboard operator, stripping “The Drowning Man” and “At Night” down to their bare, painful essentials.
Screaming there, in a field under the stars, The Cure treated the Elephant Fayre to a set that evolved from tension through realization to exasperated ecstasy – “In Your House”, near the start, was furtive and taut with caution completely complementary to the song’s frozen fright. “Primary” and “Three Imaginary Boys” were looser excuses to stretch out and test their new rhythmic possibilities and, when they hit “100 Years”, they were beginning to believe that the telepathic mayhem that finally overcame the encores was well within their grasp.
From something old sprang something new, and although there was no attempt to introduce new numbers or premier clues as to where The Cure might go from here, it was a show of strength with the power of trance a dominant blue fused from a doubtful grey.
For one marvelous, all too brief midnight, The Cure were back and, thanks to the Fayre (easily Britain’s best true “event”), we need no longer worry, they’ve assured us there’s a Cure present and all the signs are that The Cure future will be well worth the wait.
© Steve Sutherland & Melody Maker