The words ‘iconic’ and ‘legend’ are so bastardised, especially when talking about music (when people really mean ‘enduring’ or ‘good’, or ‘popular’ or ‘old’), that they’re pretty much empty and really annoying.
But in Hyde Park, under a rose-tinted sky sliding into twilight, as those eight foreboding notes which presage ‘A Forest’ reverberate from the stage, this delayed-drop intro truly is iconic. There is no other pop song like it: the chills it gives on a sweltering day (over 30 degrees in central London) have shivered the spines of hundreds of thousands of teenagers all over the world. And 65,000 of those teenagers, some of us now in our fifth, sixth or seventh decades, are gathered here on pilgrimage for The Cure’s 40th anniversary gig.
It’s an extraordinary setting, the stage wrapped around by gargantuan screens and flanked by two massive Ent-ish trees, all of which will be used to dazzling effect, particularly later as the night goes darker still. And the visuals more than live up to what you expect from this band: enchanting, magical, witty, clever and strange. Tim Pope, director of memorable 1980s videos for The Cure, is here wearing a T-shirt that says: “Yes, I am filming it. No, I don’t know when you’ll see it. Don’t even ask.”
With a bill including Roger Waters, Eric Clapton and Paul Simon the Barclaycard BST Summertime series of gigs is an unabashed classic rock retro-fest. But among many things The Cure demonstrate tonight is that they are not nostalgia-tripping their way to the bank. Do not mistake them for a ‘heritage act’ – yes, they are our musical DNA, architects of British post-punk-into-pop, but their currency, relevance and influence echoes elsewhere in today’s line-up, not least The Twilight Sad and Interpol.
The members of The Cure love this band and its songs as much as we do
A life-long Cure fan (like any sensible 1980s teenager I had the hugest crush on Simon Gallup and Robert Smith interviews were plastered on my wall) of course I knew I would enjoy the gig. But, foolish me, I wasn’t quite prepared for the dazzling proficiency of a band not wallowing in past glories but stunningly shit-hot, seriously at the very top of their game, the sound quality is tremendous and every note and word played perfectly with freshness, vibrancy, joy, energy, ferocity and above all an immense amount of love. The members of The Cure love this band and its songs as much as we do, they play with the same intensity of love and passion with which we have cherished their music for the last four decades.
Robert Smith’s cute, small smile out-beams the relentless sun and his animated delivery of every lyric illuminates the night. Later, when he leaves the stage at the end of the gig with his hand on his heart and a promise to “see you again very soon” – joshing “it’s been a good first four decades, here’s to the next one. HA!” – he is clearly brimful of emotion.