The Cure• The Twilight Sad• June 4, 2023• Vivint Arena
Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe
I’m not sure how to objectively write a review about The Cure. My goal with these reviews is always to be objective. But as a lifelong fan, I’m finding that hard to do in this case. I’ll never forget when Disintegration was released. I don’t know if this even happens anymore but my friends and I sat and listened to the entire album completely blown away at what we were hearing. I can vividly recall both boys and girls at my high school dressing up like The Cure frontman, Robert Smith.
Growing up when I did, I was able to witness the emergence of the Goth subculture and while I never quite made it as far as whitening my face or wearing red lipstick with thick black eyeliner, I most certainly had the dark black heart of a Goth kid. However, I don’t know if The Cure themselves ever embraced the moniker of Goth. Whether they did or not, the Goth Empire that is under their reign was alive and well at Vivint Arena on June 4, 2023.
This show sold out about as fast as I’ve seen a show sell out. Robert Smith did his best to make tickets affordable for Cure fans. The tickets were not resellable through Ticketmaster which made it difficult to get a ticket if you hadn’t bought one when they went on sale. On the other hand, there weren’t significantly marked-up tickets for sale by second-hand ticket brokers. I loved that The Cure was looking out for their fans. Along those lines, merch was significantly less than any concert I’ve been to in the last decade. I’m not going to lie, because of this I bought two shirts. Did I need two concert shirts from The Cure? No. No, I didn’t. But at those prices how could I go wrong?!
The Twilight Sad
First up was The Twilight Sad. A post-punk/ Indie band from Scottland. They have joined The Cure a number of times over the years on tour, being chosen by Robert Smith to open for them back in 2016. The Twilight Sad opened their set with “Kill It In the Morning” from 2012’s No One Can Ever Know. That was followed by “Dead City” off of the same album. Frontman, James Graham moved about the stage, his thick Scottish Accent present in every lyric. I think the crowd was so excited for The Cure that it took them a few songs to warm up to listening to someone else for a while. By the time “There’s a Girl In the Corner” came around they seemed like they enjoyed listening to The Twilight Sad. Their cheers grew as the set went along.
I can’t imagine what it might be like to open for a band as revered as The Cure. One hand, what an awesome experience that must be. On the other hand, it seems like you gotta work hard to win a crowd over. The Twilight Sad seemed up to the task. They were this huge wave of sound crashing in your face. Their sound was much different than The Cure, but they seemed to have a similar emotional tone. They dedicated “The Wrong Car” to Cure guitarist, Reeves Gabrels for his birthday. The Twilight Sad finished their set with “[10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs]”. They got a great ovation from the crowd. I hope they felt welcomed by this Salt Lake audience because they seemed to really like what they heard.
I don’t know if I can express how much getting to cover this concert meant to me. I’m sure going to try. I’d imagine if you’re reading this you’re a fan of The Cure. So I’m sure you can put yourself in my shoes. The few moments I had in the pit taking these photos were as surreal as it gets. As long as I cover concerts, this one will always be high on the list. The lights went out, the band walked on, and the crowd rose to their feet. Robert Smith then walked out. Now if you’re facing the stage, I was on the left. Smith entered from the right. I noticed that other than security guards, no one else was over on that side of the pit.
I knew Robert Smith wasn’t staying there the whole time and eventually, he would come to the side I was currently on, but I thought ‘When will I ever have a moment like this?’. So I walked over to the other side and just watched. It was still a little too dark to take pictures so I just looked. I couldn’t believe I was standing there with no one between me and one of my music idols. Smith looked out and took at the audience while I took in my own moment. I then tried to reattach the top of my head which had blown off and focus on what I was in that pit for, to take pictures of this legendary band. I’ll never get over that moment.
As the band played the intro to, “Alone”, Robert Smith did make his way to each side of the stage, looking out to fans. He then joined the song and our ears got to hear Robert Smith sing for the first time that night. He sounded as good as he ever has. His voice is so distinct. Try as some might, no one sounds like him. Simon Gallup was donning an Iron Maiden shirt under his leather jacket. He is the second longest-tenured member of The Cure. It was awesome to see him up close and in person playing those signature basslines. The birthday boy, Reeves Gabriels was perfectly stoic standing to Robert Smith’s right, playing guitar.
In the midst of taking photos, I looked out to the audience and could see people completely losing it. Tears, screams, and red lipstick-stained smiles all over. People are so devoted to this band and to Smith. I wanted to stop and ask each one of them what their connection is to this band. Because it’s a deep relationship fans have with The Cure. There are very few bands that have this kind of fidelity from their fans.
After “Alone” Robert Smith greeted the crowd with a simple, “Hello again. Like it was yesterday.” The Cure didn’t waste time delivering one of their huge hits. The second song of the night was the beautiful, “Pictures of You”. Again, when I should have been taking pictures, I took a second and looked over at some of the marketing people that I see at shows. They knew how big of a deal this was for me. I just looked over, made eye contact, and shook my head in complete disbelief. Again, to be that close to the stage, listening to one of my favorite songs, it was borderline out of body!
I rushed back to my seat so that I didn’t miss anything. When I arrived and settled in, The Cure gave us another massive hit, arguably their biggest. It’s impossible not to recognize “Love Song” from the moment it starts. The crowd roared, phones were out to capture the song, and voices were heard throughout the arena singing this beloved tune. It’s surprising to think that some people out there think this is a 311 song when it so clearly is not. I know this is a huge hit and it’s not always ok to like the big hits when you’re a true fan of The Cure. But I really do love this song. And it’s always awesome to hear the original artist perform it live.
The thing I love about The Cure is they stay loyal to themselves and what they want to do. They have plenty of hit songs to make the show a “Greatest Hits” concert. They could play a 90-minute to two-hour set and send everyone home. But they don’t do that. They have never done that. Yes, they play their hits, but they play so much more. Almost 30 songs over a three-hour set to be more specific. They split up between hits, b-sides, and non-singles from their vast catalog and new unreleased songs. I feel like they’ve been doing this for some time.
So if you were one of the people in attendance who didn’t expect this, I’m not sure what to tell you. Those who knew that were treated to three hours of a great list filled with some really cool surprises. It’s so impressive how they come up with their setlist. Songs you think will go later, come early, and songs you never expect to hear show up in the concert.
One big surprise was getting to hear an original song The Cure did for the soundtrack of the movie The Crow, “Burn”. When the song started I could see some people’s jaws drop. I saw others about thirty seconds in look to their friend and ask, “Is this the song from The Crow?!”. When that was affirmed, their reaction was priceless. Other songs like “It Can Never Be the Same” which before this year hadn’t been performed in concert since, 2018. Or “Six Different Ways” which before this year, hadn’t been performed in concert since 1987! You just never know what song will be unearthed at a Cure concert. I think about fans who never expected to hear these deep cuts and how excited they must be when they’re performed. Of course crowd-pleasers like, “A Forest” and
The majority of the third hour was taken up by the two encores. The two fantastic encores. The first encore included two songs that I have never heard live before. Both from the Disintegration, “Plainsong” and the title track “Disintegration”. Both of these songs have been played live over the years, but in the two other times I’ve seen The Cure, they weren’t on the setlist. At this point in the night, it was well past 11 pm and some people started to head to the exits. Not a lot of people. But enough for it to be noticeable. They must have been people who had to get up early or don’t like hit-filled 2nd encores. Because those people missed out big time!
The second encore opened with “Lullaby”. From the first cord of the guitar, the arena burst into cheers. So much of this song encapsulates everything about what someone might think about when they want to describe The Cure. Haunting melodies, broody lyrics, each instrument orchestrated to an exact purpose, and of course Robert Smith shining with his unique vocal style. “Let’s Go To Bed” had people dancing and loving that Smith was dancing about the stage with them. Then what seemed to be a slow song turned into Robert Smith performing an acoustic introduction to “Friday I’m In Love” leading into the upbeat original version. After almost three hours the crowd was locked in and completely letting loose to an all-time favorite.
Momentum carried its way into “Close To Me” and then into what might be my favorite song by The Cure, “In Between Days”. Now I was singing and dancing with everyone else all night when the occasion called for it. But with this song, and the song that followed, “Just Like Heaven” it truly was, “just like a dream”. These two songs, back to back, could not have been more perfect. Oh, wait, I take that back. “In Between Days” followed by “Just Like Heaven” followed by the show closer, “Boys Don’t Cry” was “more perfect” (That feels like it might be awful grammar, but you get it).
I loved the way the people around me were into it. It was amazing to look across the arena, up at the top of the upper bowl down to the floor, and see people in their euphoric state. The crowd roared as The Cure took their bows, the band departing and leaving Robert Smith alone on the stage to take in the thunderous ovation. Even after three hours and 29 songs, people were still begging for more. But when a show ends on a perfect note like this, it’s easy to accept it’s over.
The show was everything I hoped it would be. Deep cuts, huge hits, and an engaged crowd. My personal experience with the show is going down in the books as one of the best concert reviewing/ photographing experiences of my life. But aside from that, I thought we witnessed a masterclass in Alternative Rock. The Cure sounds as good as ever. The exciting thing is the next time I see them, their set will be completely different. The Rock N Roll Hall of Famers don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon, and I’m really happy about that.
Pictures of You
A Night Like This
And Nothing Is Forever
The Last Day of Summer
A Fragile Thing
Play for Today
Shake Dog Shake
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
I Can Never Say Goodbye
It Can Never Be the Same
Six Different Ways
Let’s Go to Bed
Friday I’m in Love
Close to Me
In Between Days
Just Like Heaven
Boys Don’t Cry