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ACL Fest review: The Cure

Joe Gross

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 5, 2013

Twenty-six songs in two-plus hours, from their early hits to their biggest singles and a few indulgent, random songs that only hardcore fans even remember: If you went to ACL Fest to see the Cure, you saw a full and complete set by the Cure.

You also got the impression that the they could have easily played another hour without much fuss. These dudes can put up Springsteen set-length numbers if they want to.

Professionals to the core, a few of them serving with Cure leader Robert Smith for more than three decades (word to bassist Simon Gallup), the five-piece seemed to know their audience cold, opening with a trifecta of “Disintegration” classics: “Plainsong,” “Pictures of You” and “Lullaby.”

(And their audience was quite literally cold; after a hot day at Zilker, the temperature dropped to the mid-60s by the time the sun went down.)

“Disintegration” — a record that plenty of the audience probably made out to when it was first released in 1989 — was the evening’s touchstone, the band returning again and again to its Romantic neo-psychedelia. “Lovesong,” all about amore, and “Fascination Street,” all about naked lust, also from that album, were huge sing-alongs, as were smash hits such as “Just Like Heaven” and “Friday I’m In Love.”

Smith, his voice still largely intact after all these years, is not much for jumping around on stage; he leaves that to Gallup, with ringer guitarist Reeves Gabrels (always weird to see blondes in the Cure) and keyboardist Roger “I look more like Peter Fonda every year” O’Donnell shaping the songs; Gabrels with solos here and there, O’Donnell switching between melodic lines and almost-proggy atmospherics.

One or two fewer dirges might have helped here and there; even with classic mope like “One Hundred Years” and the title track to “Disintegration,” with its stellar bass line, closing the main set, funereal is maybe not the best feeling if you’re cold (however appropriate it might be).

Smith even joked that the lack of time in a festival set made the emotional transition between “going off a cliff” in “Disintegration” to the 80s dance party encore tunes such as “The Lovecats,” “The Caterpillar” “Close to Me,” and “Let’s Go to Bed” a bit awkward. It was sweet that he cared enough to say someting, but the crowd sure didn’t; they were just happy to dance. By the time the band got to “Boys Don’t Cry,” the curfew was in the rearview mirror and everyone had seen a massive set by one of the great pop bands of their epoch.