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ACL Fest review: The Cure

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Erin J. Walter

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 13, 2013

The Cure delivered something for everyone Saturday night: hits, rarities, and finally, the rain.

First there were the seemingly neverending stretches of nostalgic, melancholy bliss – “Fascination Street” into “Pictures of You” into “Lullaby” into “High” into “The Lovecats” into “Close to Me” like some kind of live action greatest hits record, and all before the halfway point. Teenagers lay in the grass snuggling to “Lovesong” and “Just Like Heaven,” while longtime fans shimmied and sang along to every word that passed the blood-red lips of beloved, frizzy-haired frontman Robert Smith.

“They just keep reminding you of another song you forgot you loved,” a man gushed repeatedly to surrounding fans.

“They’ve got hits for days!” a woman responded.

And it was easy to see why: Robert Smith’s voice sounded as haunting and singular as ever, and the Cure’s unmistakable guitar tone – a unique mix of eerie and cheery – cut straight through the dark night.

Interspersed between the hits came less known gems like “Push,” which Smith and company rarely play live, sending hardcore fans into gleeful geek mode all across the vast Zilker field. (“NO WAY!” a grinning man exclaimed to his friends as 1983’s “The Walk” began. “I never thought I’d hear this at a Cure concert!”)

The large crowd had room to move, savoring the relaxed evening vibe and basking in the glow of the Cure’s hypnotic light show, which alternated between deep reds and cool blues and greens. But finally, with 20 minutes to go, the band (or at least the rumbling clouds above the band) delivered the last gift of the night: rain. As the night sky opened up, weary, sunburned festival-goers finally got a chance to cool off — or a reason to head home.

Due to the downpour – and the Cure’s choice to play straight through any normal pre-encore break — tonight’s set clocked in about 15 minutes shorter than last Saturday’s closer. Some fans wanted more time with their idol, lamenting that Smith didn’t get to say goodbye after the heart-swelling last call of “Boys Don’t Cry.”

There may have even been some confusion onstage and in the crowd as to when the set would end. Simon Gallup (the Cure’s most energetic member and a guy whose looks scream “I was supposed to be in The Clash”) remained on stage, still wearing his bass, while Smith took his final bow. A few upset listeners in the back thought the band had been cut off by festival organizers concerned about the storm.

But swift, soggy finish or not, most fans in front felt the night ended perfectly — with rain running down their cheeks during “Boys Don’t Cry.” The overall effect of the Cure’s two ACL Fest sets was that of reawakened adoration for the 36-year-old British band and appreciation for its legacy of — as one elated fan noted to her neighbor — “perfect pop songs.”