It was 20th July 1989. At seventeen I was dressed appropriately in a biker’s leather atop a miniature-flower laden black shirt, skin-tight black jeans with laces up each side, scuffed-up basketball boots and a mop of dishevelled dark hair, short at the back, long fringe. I took a bus to Birmingham with some friends. It was The Cure’s Disintegration Tour at the NEC. They opened, as the album does, with Plainsong, followed by Pictures of You. It was awesome. Little was I to know at the time that Disintegration eventually defined them as a band. No punk, no pop, pure goth in Smith’s genre-leading interpretation.
In the year leading up to the NEC gig I’d discovered most of their back catalogue so by the time Disintegration was released I fully understood where they were on a journey from post-punk/new wave to goth, flirting with pop along the way.
Fast-forward 30 years and 27 days precisely. I’m dressed in black combat shorts, black T-shirt, green fleece lined wellies, a cobalt blue cycling waterproof and a khaki cotton bucket hat. I’d mistakenly taken a lack lustre approach to my travel arrangements to Bellahouston Park, chancing that one of the options friends had alluded to might come off. It did and I got a lift from Edinburgh to catch the shuttle at Glasgow’s Buchanan bus station.
After a 3 hour journey I arrived at the park on a ‘Happy Bus’ that had the heating stuck on max and no windows or air con. I had an extra ticket I couldn’t sell, Mogwai had already started and the heavens opened as I joined the queue to a 50 minute wait for a beer and no idea where all the friends where that I knew were there. Then my mobile did it’s quirky ‘no sim’ trick and the bar was out of cider – for someone I was trying to find! The rivers of mud didn’t worry me too much as my fleece lined wellies felt like the best decision I’d made all day. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling the love. Just as I was walking from the bar with the round of drinks I’d bought for people that I didn’t know how to find, The Cure came on to the rapturous applause and whistles.
With a cardboard drinks tray in hand, a familiar tinkle of wind chimes was heard and then the opening of Plainsong hit me like a nostalgic window into the past of exploding synth beds and shattering glass reverberating through time. In that moment, I knew why they had opened, again, with that track. The impact of that opening hits you like wind through a tunnel before a set perfected with over 40 years of refinement. It felt like the start to a 30 year Disintegration anniversary tour playfully detouring into the hits they obviously love to play.
The production was impressive. Lights and visuals were tailored to specific tracks in a honed show that you would expect from a band of their calibre. Proper entertainment for the fans with 4 decades of stage headlining experience. Live footage, characteristically but acceptably flawed as the cameras and vision mixing attempted to follow the band’s journey through the The Cure’s back catalogue. The spectacular light show never outplayed the music. The sound mix was exceptional and, for some tracks, practically mirrored the studio recordings.
I was a set of 27 songs from a band that obviously just love playing together, evident from their onstage interactions. Many crowd pleasers with a handsome dose of grassroots for the hardcore fan. Friday I’m in Love, In Between Days, Lullaby, Just Like Heaven mixed with Close to Me, A Play for Today, Primary, Shake Dog Shake, Caterpillar Girl, The Walk, Push and more. A band that have too much to play to chat between tracks but speak more profoundly as a result of it.
I had little to drink, but left on a high despite an eventful journey back. I kick myself to think I’ve not seen them in 30 years. I could go on as it was possibly the best gig I’ve ever seen or heard. To be honest, my interest in The Cure had waned in the last few years but that gig has put them back in poll position.
All hail The Cure and their next musical venture.