Now The Cure is not a band that is high on my radar. When I was in high school, a lot of my friends were very into The Cure, but I had little interest in such mopey music. While they were digging The Cure, I was listening to psychedelic and classic rock. There were a few Cure songs that interested me, but I wouldn't be caught dead at one of their shows, as I never wear eyeliner unless I'm getting paid for it.
However, my stockbroker is a huge, colossal, die-hard fan of The Cure, and he's been cajoling me to see Robert Smith live for many years, assuring me that Cure shows are a wild time. My stockbroker is also a man who knows how to party, as evidenced by his pre-show estimation that he'd consume close to 45 beers before the end of the night. With the possibility of witnessing such a record-breaking feat in mind, I decided to see how the other half lives and took the plunge on getting an $80 ticket for the show.
I met my stockbroker at Penn Station, and we rode back to my neighborhood for the pre-game. Knowing that I'd need something substantial in my belly to soak up the incoming flood of alcohol, I grilled peppers and corn (with my beloved green chile-garlic-cilantro-lime butter) as well as figs wrapped in pancetta and sage. For the main event, I fired up the smoker and made succulent, moist barbecue chicken that was falling off the bone and Pig Candy, which is a revelatory recipe that involves smoking bacon, then coating it with brown sugar and cayenne pepper before continuing the smoking to create a smoky sweet and hot piece of delicious swine. We ate well, although time constraints really prevented me from ingesting enough food. At the time, I knew it wasn't worth worrying about because I'd surely be paying for this mistake much later on.
We high-tailed it to the Garden and made it to our seats with time to spare, thankfully missing the opener, 65 Days of Static, who were described as 65 Days of Pounding Eardrums. I expected to see a crowd comprised of people in their 30s to early 50s, but to my surprise, almost half the audience appeared to be in their mid 20s. Since The Cure haven't had a hit in 16 years, I'm not really sure how the band would even be known by this younger generation. The crowd was ethnically diverse, as well. Of course, the homosexual population was well represented (both those out and those locked safely within the closet). For this reason, I shaved off my Village People-esque fu man chu before the show, as it's always a good idea to avoid looking too gay when you're amongst many regular patrons of the Blue Oyster Bar. There was a surprisingly small number of goths, and my stockbroker incorrectly assumed that the thing in front of us was a woman. Having lived in New York for over eight years, I am well-versed in the old Milton-Bradley game, Spot The Tranny, and I knew she was all man, baby.
I'm not gonna lie. I was really hoping I'd see lasers at this concert...or at least some fire. I don't get to see mainstream arena shows all that often, and the bands I like tend to do stupid shit in concert, like focus on the music. For once, a big spectacle would be nice. I don't need to see David Lee Roth dry-hump a gigantic inflatable microphone again (an image that permanently scarred my retinas), but I don't think it's too much to ask for a few lasers or a little fire or maybe even a strobe light. The Cure had none of that jazz, although the light show and backdrops were certainly respectable. They were supposed to have video screens, but a security guard told us that the screens weren't working. Umm...WTF? How can you come to Madison Square Garden, the most legendary arena in America, and not have everything in working order? And seriously, this is New York. We kinda know a thing or two about this here entertainment business, and we have no shortage of electricians.
Regardless, the show was pretty cool. Robert Smith's voice sounded in fine form, especially when he held out a high note for a really long time, which garnered enthusiastic approval from the fans. While I enjoyed Smith's singing, in my opinion, the real star of this show was guitarist Porl Thompson. Certainly one of the strangest looking musicians I've seen, thanks to a shaved and tattooed head, white-face and raccoon-eye makeup, and black leather boots with platform heels, this guy was shredding all night long. Never in a million years did I expect The Cure to rock so hard, but Porl was really raging for the entire show and brought everyone along for the ride.
I should also mention that I felt a tremendous amount of inexplicable nostalgia at this concert. Of course, it didn't make sense for me to feel nostalgic because The Cure was definitely not the music of my youth. Nevertheless, I felt swept up into the surprisingly positive atmosphere.
When a band has been in the business for nearly 30 years, you'd figure they've learned a thing or two. Towards the end of the set, Robert Smith showed his savvy by using the setlist to connect with the audience and dial up the energy in the room. "Friday I'm in Love" brought elated screams from the girls (and some boys) in the room, and while I'm not much of a fan of this tune, it was hard to deny the cheerful feelings it evoked. “Inbetween Days” immediately followed in a similar vein, and the good times were ramped up yet again in a jubilant "Just Like Heaven." By now, a solid 86.2 percent of the arena was up and dancing, a site I never expected to see.
There are tons of video clips of this show on YouTube, and these three are my favorites, all pro-shot from the FUSE TV broadcast.
“Friday I’m In Love”
“Just Like Heaven”
There were three pre-conceived encores that were well done, although I have to say that I'm officially over pre-conceived multiple encores. One pre-conceived encore is bad enough, but two and three are utterly pointless, aside from the band getting a little extra exercise while trotting on and off the stage. Listen up, bands, it's time to stop this pre-conceived multiple encore bullshit. That's right, I'm talking to you, too, Bob Dylan. Either play longer or leave. Stop toying with our emotions.
The final encore was one of my favorite Cure tunes, the gritty and raw "Killing an Arab." Due to political correctness, Smith has changed the song to "Killing Another," rendering the lyrics pointless until someone digs up Albert Camus and asks him to change his novella. In this day and age where idiocy knows no bounds, I could see some whacked out white supremacist using the original lyrics as some sort of warped mantra, so I guess I understand the change. Nevertheless, the tune smoked and was an excellent, fist-pumping ending to a fine three-hour show.
Since it was only midnight, our evening had just begun. My stockbroker, his brother, and I hopped in a cab, jetting cross-town to the comfy confines of Rodeo Bar, where Dale Watson was holding court. The Austin resident has a bit of Johnny Cash in him, and his full-throated bass sounds great when singing about outlaws and injustice. As soon as we arrived, my stockbroker immediately saw to it that our pace hastened in the Beerlympics. If I was going to have any shot at the Silver Medal (my stockbroker was a stone cold mortal lock for the Gold), I knew I needed to get something solid in my belly. My stockbroker and I split some delicious and mellow Chorizo con Queso, and I inadvertently hoarded and plowed through a plate of loaded nachos. It was dark and I have no idea of what was on them, but they were solid.
With another layer of protection in the digestive system, we cabbed on down to Sullivan Hall for Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. I had given my stockbroker lots of late night options prior to his visit, and to my surprise, he chose this dark and one-of-kind trio. I really thought their brand of jazz would be too esoteric for his tastes, but shortly after walking in, we both concluded that the robed and hooded band sounded a lot like a jammed out version of The Cure, making theses guys the perfect post-show act. (If only they had known about this, JFJO could have made a living playing after-show concerts in the way that Particle leeched off of Phish for years.) While downing a few more beers, I watched Reed Mathis unexpectedly play a lot of guitar (I think it may have been either pedal or lap steel, but don't ask me because my depth perception was waning at that point) before switching to bass. In between songs, several annoying friends approached us to crow about the life-changing event they'd witnessed at Radio City, thanks to some band called My Morning Waistcoat. None of them could believe The Cure show was good, let alone great. Their loss.
After JFJO ended around 3:30, we grabbed a cab home and went straight to my backyard, where I immediately fired up the tiki torches and cranked up The Cure on the stereo, undoubtedly delighting my neighbors. The plan was to eat the leftover smoked chicken, but as we stood there, wobbling back-and-forth with beers in hand, I realized that we should be sitting. Now I have about 63 chairs in my backyard, but I decided that we needed to be sitting in my most comfortable camp chairs. I retrieved the chairs, and we sat down, which was the evening's kiss of death.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up, slumped over in my chair, the sun shining across the 6:45AM sky with all four torches still blazing away. My stockbroker was inside, conked out on the couch, and while I was tempted to wake him up and shout, "Why'd you leave me sleeping out there, asshole?" (he would later claim that he thought I was slumping over while talking on the phone), the best I could do was make my way inside the house to lay on the floor. Oh, you wonderful floor with your amazing stiffness and your wonderfully uncomfortable carpet. In no time at all, I would be awakening to begin suffering from a world-class hangover, which was a sure sign that I had a great night.
Pass the Ibuprofen.