As a storm rolled into the Valley on Thursday, May 18, the cloudy sky and light rains outside set the stage for the legendary gothic rock band The Cure’s first show here in 15 years.
Inside Desert Diamond Arena, the ambience almost matched the weather outside, as sounds of pouring rain and rumbling thunder were piped in through speakers while crew members prepared for the Glendale date of the band’s Shows of a Lost World tour, its first North American trek in seven years and one embroiled in controversy surrounding the band’s attempts to circumvent Ticketmaster’s pricing methods.
Older fans, younger listeners, parents with children, teens and their friends, and those channeling the band’s dark image funneled into the venue, showcasing the reach it has achieved across more than four decades of recording and performing across genres like new wave and post-punk.
After a 45-minute opening set from Scottish post-punk band the Twilight Sad and a half-hour changeover for the English headliners, the lights dimmed and the crowd roared. A starry backdrop appeared and lights flashed, the band taking the stage to a packed house.
Frontman Robert Smith stepped onto the stage wearing a Joy Division “Unknown Pleasures” shirt, pacing back and forth and welcoming the audience’s applause as the rest of the band — rounded out by guitarists Perry Bamonte and Reeves Gabrels, bassist Simon Gallup, keyboardist Roger O’Donnell and drummer Jason Cooper — set the musical backdrop.
The bones of the set — two and a half hours packed with hits, deep cuts and new songs alike — were largely consistent with North American tour dates seen in recent weeks, with some substitutions, new additions and rearranges breaking the formula and subverting expectations.
“This is the end of every song that we sing,” Smith sang, his voice strong as ever, on set opener “Alone,” a recent song debuted at shows last year and presumably intended for the band’s long-awaited 14th studio album, “Songs of a Lost World.” A cloudy blue backdrop appeared on the screen behind the band, slowly zooming out and revealing the image of a spinning globe.
As the planetary image retreated farther from the screen, Smith picked up his guitar and greeted the audience, the sound of chimes cueing in “Pictures of You” from the 1989 landmark album “Disintegration.”
With the image of an old photograph backing the stage, Smith and Gallup performed face to face, in a sort of duel, after which Smith hugged his guitar while passionately singing the verses.
The sextet then took things a bit further back to 1985’s “The Head on the Door” for the song “A Night Like This” before moving on to 1989’s “Lovesong,” with the backdrop switching to live footage of the band performing.
“And Nothing Is Forever” marked the second newer song of the evening, having debuted at shows last year. Performing in front of an image of Iceland’s Arctic Henge and the northern lights, Smith traded his guitar for a shaker as he and the rest of the band built up a simple keyboard intro into an emotional ballad about the passing of time.
As the aurora borealis behind the band gave way to imagery depicting a large tree in a field of tall grass, The Cure gave fans a taste of 2000’s “Bloodflowers” with the cut “The Last Day of Summer.”
This was immediately followed by another song the group debuted live last year, “A Fragile Thing,” the stage lit a deep red with rose imagery backing the band. Another gentle keyboard intro gave way to the kicking in of the drums and bass, as Smith sang lyrics like “I could die tonight of a broken heart” before delivering a simple but melodic guitar solo.
One of the oldest songs of the evening came by way of the title track from The Cure’s 1979 debut album, “Three Imaginary Boys,” performed for the first time this tour after a jokey introduction from Smith about it being “45 (expletive) years” old. This became common throughout the evening, with the frontman cracking jokes about the age of songs.
A flute solo from Smith over Cooper’s pounding drums, the latter displayed prominently in psychedelic layered live video footage projected behind the band, introduced “Burn,” originally released on the soundtrack to the 1994 film “The Crow.”
“The Hungry Ghost” was the lone song the group performed from its most recent album, 2008’s “4:13 Dream.” And while that release may not be considered a fan favorite, the song’s presence in the set list — a first for the tour — wasn’t unwelcome, fitting snugly alongside classics and newer jams alike.
A memorable guitar lead signaled “The Head on the Door” song “Push,” with the on-screen visuals changing to a rear angle behind the drummer, capturing both the band’s performance and the size of the audience.
Two songs from 1980’s “Seventeen Seconds” — “Play for Today” and “A Forest” — followed, the former’s simple presentation of flashing white lights contrasting with the latter’s first-person forest footage.
Smith traded an electric guitar for his trademark star-adorned Schecter acoustic at various points during the set, including the 1992 “Wish” cut “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,” during which the dreary nighttime forest visuals that preceded transitioned to a warm sunrise.
A red moon and starry sky followed, the band concluding its first set with yet another newer song that debuted live last year. A slow, dreamy tune with prominent synth pads, shimmering guitars and percussive drumming, “Endsong” made for a fitting finish — and not just for its obvious title.
Though Smith bowed and the band took its exit, fans and the musicians were given a moment to breathe before a five-song encore.
“This is a song about my brother, and it’s called ‘I Can Never Say Goodbye,’” Smith announced as the band returned to the stage, the venue lit with bright phone screens and fans clamoring for more.
“Something wicked this way comes to steal away my brother’s life” were among the personal lyrics delivered by the singer about his late brother, Richard, in front of foggy merry-go-round and Ferris wheel imagery at dusk. A thunderous finish — literally, as the storm sounds blared through speakers — concluded the song, also a new cut first performed last year.
The song was perfectly paired alongside “It Can Never Be the Same,” a leftover from the “4:13 Dream” sessions, according to a 2019 NME interview with Smith, that features lyrics like “Without you it can never be the same” and has been added into the band’s set in recent years. The image of a flickering flame backed the band’s performance of the song.
The encore wrapped with a trio of songs from “Disintegration.”
The memorable “Plainsong” came first, Smith pacing the stage and singing directly to the audience in front of lightstream visuals. “Prayers for Rain” was delivered, for the first time this tour, ahead of footage of misty scenery and warm colors. Then, the upbeat feel of the 1989 album’s title track worked as a sort of segue into the hit-filled second encore after the mostly slower-tempo cuts that preceded.
After the final hiatus of the show, the band continued pulling from “Disintegration” for the final encore with “Lullaby,” the image of a spider traversing a web prominently featured behind the band.
This third round of songs made for the most playful portion of the evening, with Smith throughout the selections launching into silly dances, smiling and laughing. The singer-songwriter and guitarist picked up a small handheld keyboard for “Six Different Ways” from “The Head on the Door,” as a more simplistic setup projected spotlights across the crowd.
The danceable 1983 synth pop single “The Walk” followed, before the band kicked it up a notch with one of its most popular and enduring songs, 1992’s “Friday I’m in Love.” Cutesy and colorful graphics of bouncing, spinning and fluttering hearts as well as stars flashed.
The visuals were toned down to live footage for the next few cuts, “Doing the Unstuck,” also from 1992’s “Wish,” as well as “Close to Me” and “In Between Days” from “The Head on the Door.”
“Just Like Heaven” was the sole song from 1987’s “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me,” performed in front of the image of a hillside and a lighthouse in the ocean.
Finally, The Cure brought its show to a finish with 1979’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” one of the band’s earliest singles that went on to launch four decades of music as beloved by audiences as it is influential on other bands.
With 15 years having lapsed since the band last visited the Valley, fans seemed satisfied with the mammoth, career-spanning set, the first the band has delivered in a venue of this size here since the 1990s.
But as enraptured as the audience appeared, Smith was similarly grateful, repeatedly thanking the audience throughout the evening and staying onstage for some time after the rest of the band to bashfully and graciously allow the audience to cheer before making his last exit.
Pictures of You
A Night Like This
And Nothing Is Forever
The Last Day of Summer
A Fragile Thing
Three Imaginary Boys
The Hungry Ghost
Play for Today
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
I Can Never Say Goodbye
It Can Never Be the Same
Prayers for Rain
Six Different Ways
Friday I’m in Love
Doing the Unstuck
Close to Me
In Between Days
Just Like Heaven
Boys Don’t Cry
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