In some ways, it could be said that The Cure’s performance at Manchester Arena had almost everything you look for in a gig. They had the mega hits, the huge back catalogue and a few forgotten gems, the 21,000 capacity stadium, enough fervent fans to fill it, and quite possibly the best light show this reviewer has ever seen. None of that can be ignored. But, at times, they did seem to lack one crucial thing. And that was the intensity that their support band, The Twilight Sad, had in spades.
Blasting out eight songs in little over half an hour, The Twilight Sad, whose lead singer James Graham joked about being more used to playing in places like the Northern Quarter’s Night and Day, showed that their trademark angry anthems could easily translate to the bigger stage. Although the stadium was less than half full while they played, Graham had the rapt attention of those who were there. There’s something special about the Scottish lilt of this energetic frontman’s voice, and when they performed songs such as ‘It Was Never the Same’ and ‘Girl in the Corner’ it was difficult to understand how they aren’t more widely admired. Their songs are nothing less than captivating, and with such a short set they were careful to not waste a second. A superb support act.
But back to The Cure. Quite why the Crawley band struggled to match the intensity of the support act is probably a matter for debate. Could it be their more advanced ages? Or maybe it’s down to an over-familiarity with songs they’ve been playing since the seventies. Or, perhaps most convincingly of all, it might have had something to do with the massive, and occasionally meandering, setlist. Since their Bestival headlining performance in 2011, The Cure have become famous for their three hour sets. And while that might be a marvellous thing to their most adoring fans, it was clear that many in the Arena found it to be a bit of a slog. There was more than a couple of lulls during the evening.
But that’s enough of the negatives. Because this was, after all, The Cure. And when we weren’t in one of the lulls, it was obvious that we were in the presence of a band who deserve their lofty reputation. After a somewhat sluggish start, they really burst into life when playing ‘In Between Days’ – the first song to really get the crowd moving. ‘Pictures of You’ and ‘Just Like Heaven’ were other early highlights.
It was during their three encores that The Cure really shone, though, beginning with an absolutely majestic rendition of ‘A Forest’. One of the band’s best, and most underrated, songs was accompanied by an absolutely stunning light show that complimented the creepy undertones of the track. Similar sentiments can be applied to ‘Lullaby’, although any arachnophobic audience members might have watched the screen through their fingers. The Cure then closed out the show with ‘Friday I’m in Love’, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, ‘Close to Me’, and ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ By this point the whole place was bouncing, there were heartwarming displays of dad-dancing wherever you looked, and the families that danced together proved how much of a generation spanning band The Cure have been. If they’d performed to the levels of the encore throughout the whole evening, then we might have witnessed something close to perfect. To do that, though, they might need to trim a good eight to ten songs from the set.