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The Cure Bestival Live 2011 Review

Live. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Confirms The Cure as an ongoing, still-vibrant concern.

Tom Hocknell 2011

When The Cure – the band Robert Smith formed with schoolmates in Sussex sometime in the late 1970s – played 2011’s Bestival back in September it marked their first UK show in some two years. But little had changed in the band’s world – unsurprising, really, as few contemporary bands can claim to have spanned features in Sounds, Smash Hits and NME (collecting a Godlike Genius Award along the way) with such enviable ease.

From the early 80s it took them no time to hollow out the energy of punk into something bleak and beautiful – and like all great bands they quickly created their own universe. Once the listener-in-waiting gets past this set’s awful bootleg-like cover – it might be a charity release, benefitting the Isle of Wight Youth Trust, but nothing can excuse this lazy effort – the sound quality is wonderful, immediately putting aside any fears of bootleg quality presentation in that department.   

Punk allowed anyone to be a frontman, and Smith lets his singing do the talking here. It is the Gothfather and company’s fifth live album, their first since 1993, and captures their current vitality as a live band. Their two-and-a-half hour sets are frequently described as ambitious, which implies they might struggle to meet the demands of such a duration. But few can forget the number of hits they’ve had – easily enough to fill a lengthy performance. Close to Me, The Lovecats and Boys Don’t Cry all feature on what might seem a marathon listen to the casual fan; but to the hardcore crowd, this stirs memories without anyone losing the way back to their tent.   

The opener, Plainsong, confirms rumoured changes in The Cure’s line-up, with the return of Roger O’Donnell on keyboards. These are presented to the fore of the mix, offering a very different sound following six years of the band operating as a trio. The brooding magnificence of A Forest threatens to overshadow the first half of the set, but it’s neatly pruned, as tight and otherworldly as its studio version. And the song’s in good company as the band casts a luxuriously hypnotic spell on the senses, getting through more material on two discs than most bands do across a career. From the scratchy dark funk of Play for Today to the half-awake sensuality of The Only One from their last album, 2008’s 4:13 Dream, it’s effortless.  

Observant fans will acknowledge the first airing of The Caterpillar since 1991, but this is primarily a celebratory set of greatest hits to appeal to casual and obsessive fans alike. It confirms The Cure as an ongoing, still-vibrant concern.

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