Just like heaven: The Cure celebrate 40 years with perfectly curated London anniversary concert

Lyndsey Parker
Yahoo Music
Robert Smith of the Cure performs at Hyde Park in London on July 7. (Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty Images)
Robert Smith of the Cure performs at Hyde Park in London on July 7. (Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

“Forty years ago this weekend [on July 9, 1978] was the first time we played as the Cure. It was in the Rocket in [the West Sussex suburb] Crawley. If you asked me what I’d be doing in 40 years’ time, I would have given you the wrong answer. But, thanks to you, we’re still f***ing here.”

So declared Cure frontman Robert Smith, addressing the roughly 50,000 fans who’d gathered at London’s Hyde Park Saturday for the legendary British band’s 40th anniversary celebration. The two-hour, 29-song set, part of the Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time concert series, didn’t feature any special cameos, nor was the band joined by the any past members from its ever-revolving and evolving lineup, instead sticking to the core of longtime members Simon Gallup (bass), Roger O’Donnell (keyboards), Jason Cooper (drums), and onetime David Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels. (In a 2005 Yahoo Entertainment interview, when contemplating the idea of a massive reunion show, Smith quipped, “There’s not really a great desire for us to do that ‘Let’s all get back together and hold hands and join in a rendition of “A Forest”’ thing.”)

However, the day did feature an impressive lineup of Smith-selected opening acts across three stages, including New York indie icons Interpol, shoegaze veterans Ride and Slowdive, glamtronica gods Goldfrapp, anthemic alt-rockers Editors, BBC Sound of 2018 nominees Pale Waves, and Icelandic synth nymphs Kælan Mikla — all of whom Smith generously credited with making the Hyde Park event a “f***ing excellent experience.”

Interpol once played Curiosa, the Cure’s touring festival that also featured Muse, the Rapture, and Mogwai, in 2004, and on Saturday they gave a shoutout to Smith for granting them that opportunity, with lead singer Paul Banks calling Curiosa “one of the greatest experiences of our career. We owe a debt of gratitude to [the Cure].” And, actually, every single one of the above-mentioned acts proved Saturday that they owe a debt to Smith and company, because all the music they played could in some way be traced back to the Cure’s dizzyingly diverse discography — be it the spartan post-punk of debut album Three Imaginary Boys, the bad-acid-trip psychedelia of The Top, the cheeky Eurodisco of Japanese Whispers, or the soundscaping, shoegazing masterpiece Disintegration.

Smith noted this phenomenon in Yahoo’s 2005 interview, saying, “There’s a Cure influence with quite a few newer bands. It’s much more apparent, I think, because people have dared to talk about it now. It’s taken a handful of bands who have actually turned around and said, ‘We think the Cure are really good,’ and those people perceived as being very hip and very cool and very cutting-edge. And suddenly, everyone thinks it’s fine to like the Cure again.”

But was there ever a time in the past 40 years when it wasn’t cool to like the Cure? Not judging from the ecstatic response by Saturday’s sold-out crowd of diehards, the fans Smith earnestly thanked for staying on this long “journey” with the Cure. And those fans, many clad in black, endured London Pride traffic congestion, missing the big London-Sweden World Cup game, and unseasonably sweltering 90-degree heat to be at Hyde Park. (“I honestly can’t talk until the sun goes down; it’s taking up all my energy not to dissolve into a pile of dust,” a sweaty Smith said at the start of the show, ironically not playing “Hot Hot Hot!!!” but expressing relief when the sun appropriately began to set right after “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep.”) However, the audience’s enthusiasm never flagged, as everyone unison-clapped “Radio Gaga”-style to Gallup’s thumping “A Forest” bassline and sang along to every song in the Cure’s chronologically jumbled greatest-hits revue, even keeping up with the scatty, polysyllabic “The Caterpillar.” (“That’s how I gauge how old I’m getting, if I’m still able to do ‘cata-cata-cata,’” the 59-year-old Smith chuckled.)

The night wrapped with the Cure going back in time to Crawley’s Rocket club with a thrilling encore of five debut-album tracks — including “10:15 Saturday Night,” which was almost perfectly timed. (That song kicked in at 10:21 p.m. Oops!) While in his Yahoo interview Smith inexplicably disparaged Three Imaginary Boys as “the worst stuff” in the Cure catalog, the rarely played “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” and “Grinding Halt” sounded as fresh, relevant, and vibrant as anything played by any younger band on Saturday’s bill.

“It’s been a good first four decades,” Smith said as he left the Hyde Park main stage, grinning and looking genuinely moved as he looked out into the crowd. “Here’s to the next one. See you very soon.”

The Cure’s Hyde Park full setlist was:
Plainsong
Pictures of You
High
A Night Like This
The Walk
The End of the World
Lovesong
Push
In Between Days
Just Like Heaven
If Only Tonight We Could Sleep
Play for Today
A Forest
Shake Dog Shake
Burn
Fascination Street
Never Enough
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
Disintegration
Lullaby
The Caterpillar
Friday I’m in Love
Close to Me
Why Can’t I Be You?
Boys Don’t Cry
Jumping Someone Else’s Train
Grinding Halt
10:15 Saturday Night
Killing an Arab

The Cure’s 29-song Hyde Park setlist. (Photo: Lyndsey Parker)
The Cure’s 29-song Hyde Park setlist. (Photo: Lyndsey Parker)

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