Cure makes up for lost time with marathon shows
The Cure returns after a five-year hiatus to headline this year’s BottleRock Napa festival alongside Outkast and Eric Church. The British band has been making up for the lost time with its recent marathon sets, which cover everything from the hits (“Just Like Heaven,” “Pictures of You,” and so on) to deep, deep cuts. Robert Smith, the group’s 55-year-old front man, known for smeared lipstick and gravity-defying locks, tells us why every set still matters.
Q: You have been playing four-hour shows. Where do you get the energy?
A: Well, I’m not known for my onstage gymnastics.
Q: I know, but you’ve written so many songs. How do you remember them all?
A: A lot of the songs are just embedded in me. If I get the first line to any Cure song, I can just sing the rest. But I do believe you should be feeling the words you’re singing.
Q: Is it difficult to get in the headspace of your 19-year-old self?
A: I remember who I was when I wrote (the songs), which is good enough. Sometimes at the end of a song it’s like coming out of a weird trance. I go right back in time to when we first started performing and the joy and excitement we had when the lights went down.
Q: How has being in the Cure for so long affected your personal life?
A: Well, I suppose when we started to get really well known, in the mid-’80s, that was a strange period for me. But I wouldn’t swap the experience. I did think that when I was 55 I wouldn’t have to deal with people camping in my drive, but that isn’t the case.
Q: Did you read the Morrissey autobiography?
A: Strangely enough, no. I haven’t got to that one yet. There are about 101,000 other books I would like to read first.
Q: I figured there might be some shared experience there.
A: I doubt we have a shared experience. I’m not interested in reigniting a feud, but I don’t think our approach to life has been similar in any way. I don’t read biographies. I’m more interested in fiction.
Q: Will you ever write one?
A: No, I will never, ever write a book. I struggle enough with writing lyrics – that’s the outer edges of my ego. But a 16-page comic might do the trick.
Aidin Vaziri is The San Francisco Chronicle’s pop music critic.
Friday, May 30
The weather was the first surprise of the weekend. Friday offered a cool, even breezy afternoon at the Napa Valley Expo that turned to a chilly evening. Five stages, including one for VIP ticket holders only, played to 24 bands throughout the day. It was a relatively calm affair that would see less attendees than following day, but for the most part, the logistical aspects of food and drink lines and bathroom cleanliness was kept in good order. Some festivalgoers themselves, even, helped throw away garbage and just be generally decent—maybe Headliners like the Cure and Sublime with Rome (the guy, not the city) simply brought out equal parts of older and more sedated fans who were content to throw down blankets and relax.
Jewish reggae-rapper Matisyahu delivered an effortless and nicely rocking set of smooth jams and authentic beats, many from his upcoming album, “Akeda,” released this week. TV on the Radio wowed me with a continuously intensifying set of eclectic indie rock and soulful electro pop. Gin Blossoms brought the “county fairgrounds” vibe to, well, the county fairgrounds. Overall, crowds seemed to care about the fact that ‘90s radio rock leftovers filled out the lineup. They sang along with “Follow You Down,” and clapped, mostly in time, with the band through their back catalogue of, ahem, lesser-known hits.
The Cure really was the gem of this show. They are one of my longtime favorites, yet I’ve only been able to see them live twice before, and it’s been 7 or 8 years since the last time. They were amazing. No way around it. They sounded perfect, and their set list was a mash of surprises and staples from 30 plus years of new wave, postpunk, emo-goth melodic pop angst. Robert Smith’s hair was a glorious tangled web of Aqua Net, and Napa winds and Simon Gallup’s tight denim and slicked back hair still make him look like he stepped out of a 1982 Clash video.
The Cure opened with “Shake Dog Shake,” a surprise choice off their 1985 album, The Top. They played for two-and-a-half hours with hits old and new, making me realize how much I do, in fact, like their more recent material—pitch-perfect pops songs and raw, soaring rock riffs alike. It was only when the festival had to cut the power at 10pm (the price one pays for hosting an outdoor fest in a Napa neighborhood) that the Cure finally left the stage, and only after the crowd of about 10,000 helped Smith finish singing the band’s encore of “Why Can’t I Be You?”