I didn’t always love The Cure. Quite the contrary, through most of high school I tormented my friend Chris, who constantly drew their logo on school desks and notebooks idly, only to have me add “sucks” like an obnoxious brat. Without ever hearing a single song.
This changed in college, when a co-worker who was also obsessed with them and with drawing draftsman-quality sports cars invited me to his house and played “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” for me (and showed off his car etchings; I was less impressed by those). I was instantly converted (and I hope Chris experienced some satisfaction when I asked him to do a Robert Smith portrait on my leather jacket soon after. He was decent enough that the words “I told you so” never passed his lips).
I have now seen The Cure an astonishing four times live (astonishing for me–remember, I never leave the house. That alone should tell you the love I have for this band). Unfortunately, the other three times were before my blogging days and I have virtually no recollection of the shows; which is an especially alarming indictment of my memory considering the last time was with my sister (who hardly ever visits), after we got tattoos together, a month after my father died. Yeah, nothing at all memorable about any of that.
So if I go into too much detail here, forgive me; because otherwise in five years this night will be just another huge question mark in my timeline.
Step One: Find a companion. Because I could have VIP passes to chill with Robert Smith himself afterwards and still rationalize skipping it if I had to go alone. I put out the call on Facebook, without much hope, and to my surprise Tabby (she of the amazing Rickman grief hug) responded a few hours later, despite barely knowing anything about them. That right there is friendship.
Step Two: Tickets. I’m not a fan of Fiddler’s Green, our lesser known open air amphitheater (frankly pretty ghetto compared to Red Rocks–but then, just about every concert venue in America is ghetto compared to Red Rocks), where the choice is barely affordable lawn seating or actual seats for the independently wealthy. Our choice was pretty clear, because I couldn’t ask Tabby to pay $125 for a band she hardly recognized, and I sure couldn’t afford both tickets alone.
(I saw them last time in 2000 at Fiddler’s. My sister reminded me “it rained the whole time; perfect for a Cure concert.” I’m taking her word for it because even that didn’t make the slightest impression on me.)
Step Three: Wait for the big day. I won’t bore you with a description of this; I’m not THAT entertaining.
Step Four/THE BIG DAY: I took the whole day off from work to rest up for what I anticipated being a long night (rumor on the interwebs was other cities were getting four encores!!) However, I didn’t see any harm in a nice bike ride with Gerry. I didn’t take into account the blazing, relentless sun and my fair Polish/Irish skin that typically skids right past tan and heads straight to fiery bone-deep burn. I could feel it happening despite my liberal application of sunscreen. “I can’t go to the concert with a TAN!” I anguished. “They’ll never let me in the door!” (I’m kidding, of course. The Cure has as diverse a group of fans as anyone. Goth attire not required.)
I arrived home to a text from Tabby–her friend who had begged to accompany us had bailed. I immediately started texting as many people as I could think of, some of whom would have been happy to come if they had more than three hours’ notice. Not cool, Tabby’s friend. Very not cool.
I had hoped to nap but, in the words of that Disney commercial, I was too excited to sleep. So I lay in bed for an hour staring at the ceiling.
I didn’t even have an outfit picked out, so I threw something together very last minute. Don’t get me wrong, I love the goth look but it’s not terribly comfortable and at this point in my life, I’m all about comfort. Also at this point in my life, I realize no one is really looking at me so I have no worries. This is as edgy as I get:
Tabby proved to be even more of a valuable companion since she’s been to Fiddler’s more than me and knew exactly how to get there (it’s buried smack in the middle of nondescript office parks, just an odd setup all around). We got there in no time, parked in no time, and even got through the front gate in no time (contrary to older Yelp reviews complaining about still being stuck in line when the show started. Note to future me: Seems like they got their act together).
On the way to the gate, however, we passed a guy looking for an extra ticket. I had toyed with the idea of scalping ours, but I’m pretty sure it’s illegal. Without even considering the possibility of entrapment, I offered it to him. He gave me ten bucks, which was practically stealing it but still a better deal than a piece of paper that would otherwise just get thrown out. And that ten bucks got each of us a bottle of water (more later).
The trouble with lawn seating is, of course, it’s a free-for-all, and by the time we arrived the prime center sections were full up. Our choices were the extreme edges or behind the speaker towers. We chose the latter, poorly (in retrospect).
There were huge, remarkably high-definition screens on either side of the stage, which quite stupidly could only be properly enjoyed by people already close enough to see the actual stage. Even with binoculars I could barely make them out.
We settled in and I went to get beverages from the vendor directly in front of us (another improvement: drinks are now sold from strategically placed coolers, not just one big kiosk with an enormous line that you stand in for the entire show). He screwed off and kept the lids before handing them to me, which we later decided must be to prevent lazy morons from leaving them hidden in the grass to jack up lawnmowers later. Through the entire show he was down there screwing off lids, and I thought how much his hands had to hurt after doing that a few hundred times.
We devised this brilliant hack to hold them without spillage.
We had plenty of time to crowd watch, and I noticed with pleasure that the vast majority were people my age or older. Nothing ruins a concert (or any public event) for me faster than punk-ass kids who don’t know how to behave around large groups of grown-ups. Also, not really any goths; I actually spotted more hipsters. Hang on…wait just one minute…
There was one pretty goth boy, thin, pale and perfect, complete with makeup and teased hair. I held my breath as he actually came to sit directly in front of us with his girlfriend (she wasn’t as pretty). I tried to snap a surreptitious shot.
(His presence later proved to be enormously helpful as I returned from the bathroom and had the sinking feeling I would never see Tabby again — not easy to find one person in a crowd of hundreds with just the glow of the stage lights half a mile away to see by. But then I spotted my goth boy’s white face standing out like a shining, deeply ironic beacon of light.)
My trip to the bathroom: It was an incredibly reluctant trip, but I knew it was necessary because if I waited until the end I might get stuck with an unpleasantly full bladder while battling traffic trying to escape the show. It was tricky because lots of dance circles had broken out on the main thoroughfare. This didn’t annoy me nearly as much as you’d think — “Fascination Street” was playing and I felt overcome with happiness.
I was so happy in fact, that when an especially exuberant girl accidentally bopped me on the head while flailing wildly I could only laugh. She shrieked delightedly as if I was a long-lost friend and grabbed my arms to apologize. I grabbed back in the dark, inadvertently getting a handful of boob in the process. She didn’t seem to mind. I chuckled the entire arduous rest of the way there and back.
But enough about me. The show. Not being able to see anything apart from the very cool video graphics behind the stage that changed with every song, I had nothing to focus on but the music. And Robert’s voice sounded just fantastic. Every bit as good as every other show, and not at all like a band 37 years into their career. I made an extremely shitty video which you should only watch if you’re a rabid fan. Not much to look at (so pretty true to my experience) but sounds fabulous.
Robert isn’t very chatty between songs, which is good because I never understand a blessed word he says, until tonight: near the end he said quite clearly “The altitude is affecting my voice,” and “How do you all live so high?” Other cities get “Hello, _______!” We get “Where’s all your oxygen??” (with an equally enthusiastic crowd reaction) (Johnny Rotten actually had an oxygen tank on stage at Red Rocks.) By “Why Can’t I Be You?” the poor man was singing only every third word.
(Also of note, there was a playful moment right after “The Caterpillar” ended when Robert came back to the mic and gave it some extra “cata-cata-cata-cata-cata”s because it’s just so much fun to do.)
They had an eclectic set list–more or less evenly divided between their biggest hits and some very, very VERY early/obscure tracks. They didn’t get to my biggest favorite, “Edge of the Deep Green Sea,” but they did do two others, “Cold” from Pornography and “Burn” from The Crow (which I’ve never heard live. I flipped out, which is why I recorded it almost in its entirety).
And we DID get four encores. The whole show was nearly three hours (still in bed by midnight, which I appreciated). They give us our money’s worth.
I didn’t get emotional until the end of “Bloodflowers,” which snuck up on me. It was only halfway through the show, but it’s a song that starts sad and then just keeps adding more and thicker layers of sad, like an emo layer cake. Maybe I started thinking about the slim likelihood of ever seeing my favorite band again (none of us are getting any younger). Or maybe it was only the melancholy beauty of the song. But I was a little disappointed when they played a long string of upbeat pop hits afterwards, as if to apologize for bringing us down.
It was damn near a perfect night and I desperately hope it doesn’t get erased like my memories always do. Maybe I need another tattoo (hopefully this post will suffice).
(While searching for this I wept a little again. This is officially The Saddest Cure Song Ever.)