26 December 2014

The Cure - Hammersmith Apollo (21 December 2014)

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The merchandise adorned with an image of a spinning top should have given it away, but even that couldn’t prepare us for what a special night The Cure’s first of a three night residency at the Hammersmith Apollo would be.

Seeing The Cure in relatively ‘intimate’ surroundings was a refreshing change from the larger shows that they most often find themselves playing. I’ve seen them at outdoor festivals, the Royal Albert Hall, and at Wembley Arena - they were all great shows and spectacles, but nothing quite like tonight’s performance. Playing in this theatre to a majority hardcore Cure fan contingent really seemed to focus the band’s sound and they look and felt energised – Robert was playful, Simon was throwing shapes, and the whole band looked more relaxed than I’ve ever seen them before and it made for a stunning show. For all of the image of The Cure – big hair, eyeliner, black clothes – you can easily forget that lurking behind all that is a powerful rock band who have been harnessing their sound for over 35 years.

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If tonight The Cure sounded invigorated, so was their setlist. Away from festival headline slots, the band took the opportunity at this ‘Christmas show’ to dig deep and reunite themselves and their audience with some long forgotten treasures. Over a mammoth 40 song set what what we were essentially treated to was a 30th Anniversary Show for The Top.

Throughout the three hour long show, starting with the claustrophobic swirl of Shake Dog Shake, the band played all of 1984’s The Top, not in order but with tracks from the album scattered throughout the set, something the band probably hasn’t done since the album was released. Robert Smith had promised surprises during this run of shows, but I don’t think the sold out Hammersmith Apollo crowd has been expecting something quite like this.

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The songs from The Top sounded mighty as well, you would never have thought that many of the songs hadn’t been regularly performed. The album is an under-appreciated, and due to being largely ignored by the band in recent years, largely long-forgotten part of The Cure’s back catalogue. But the band did it justice, and in this setting it sounded full blooded, striking the right balance between the murky psychedelia, oddball weirdness and oppressive playfulness that runs throughout the songs. All in all the vibe was the right kind of heavy.

The Cure have mentioned doing a third set of Trilogy shows involving The Top, Head on the Door and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. These not-yet-announced trilogy shows must be in the back of the band’s mind as they play these Hammersmith Apollo dates. While we were treated to The Top in its entirety, the band also dusted off a couple of Head On The Door-era gems in the shape of Kyoto Song and the B-side A Man Inside My Mouth, with the Kiss Me… pick being a dusting-off of Like Cockatoos, which fitted in perfectly alongside the strangeness of The Top tracks.

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Keeping in mind that not everyone in attendance will be a hardcore Cure fan, the remainder of the main set tread a familiar path of hits, although played with renewed vigour; while the inclusion of Before Three was a personal highlight – a gorgeous song from the 2004 Ross Robinson produced The Cure LP.

After playing for two hours the band left the stage to return for four sets of encores that lasted well over an hour and felt like another show. The encores mainly focussed on The Cure’s early post-punk / pre-Pornography output. Charlotte Sometimes and M were pleasing inclusions, while the remaining The Top songs that featured were the first performance of The Empty World since 1984, Dressing Up, and Piggy In The Mirror (not played since ’97). The final set of encores made sure the night ended on an upbeat note as the band ran through some of their more poppy numbers ending on a blazing Hey You with its apt refrain of “Your the one that looks like Christmas”.

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As ever, Chain Of Flowers has a decent roundup of the show.

Setlist: The Cure, Eventim Apollo, London, UK, 12/21/14

1. “Shake Dog Shake”

2. “Kyoto Song”

3. “A Night Like This”

4. “alt.end”

5. “Wailing Wall” (First time since 1984)

6. “Bananafishbones”

7. “The Caterpillar”

8. “The Walk”

9. “A Man Inside My Mouth” (Live debut)

10. Close to Me”

11. Lullaby”

12. “High”

13. “Birdmad Girl”

14. “Just Like Heaven”

15. “Pictures of You”

16. “Before Three”

17. “Lovesong”

18. “Like Cockatoos” (First time since 2004)

19. “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea”

20. “Want”

21. “The Hungry Ghost”

22. “One Hundred Years”

23. “Give Me It”

24. “The Empty World” (First time since 1984)

25. “Charlotte Sometimes”

26. “Primary”

27. “The Top”
Encore 2:

28. “Dressing Up”

29. “Piggy in the Mirror” (First time since 1997)

30. “Never Enough”

31. “Wrong Number”
Encore 3:

32. “Three Imaginary Boys”

33. “M”

34. “Play for Today”

35. “A Forest”
Encore 4:

36. “The Lovecats”

37. “Let’s Go to Bed”

38. “Why Can’t I Be You?”

39. “Boys Don’t Cry”

40. “Hey You!” (First time since 2004)
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