The Cure 2016 Tour

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 PNC Music Pavilion – Charlotte

The staff of RDU Music stepped outside our comfort zone for a special occasion last Thursday. We visited the thriving metropolis of Charlotte in order to cross a major item off of our bucket list: The Cure live in concert.

For the record, we hate going anywhere outside the Raleigh city limits for shows. If it ain’t at Kings, you’re gonna have to twist my arm. And if it is in Charlotte of all places, you had better get out the chloroform to even get me in the car. The last time I ventured that far was to see the original Jane’s Addiction lineup play with Nine Inch Nails.

[Editor’s Note: Jane’s was a wholly spiritual experience. 5/5 stars. They opened with “Three Days,” setting the tone for a magical set. Had Eric Avery not been manning the low-end for that tour, I wouldn’t have bothered, by the way. My man-crush on Eric is well-documented.]

3 hours is the maximum amount of time that I will sit still to do anything. If a flight is over 3 hours, I will need to alternate Xanax and Dramamine each hour until I am completely zombified. 3 hours is even too long for things that I love. I need a break between football games on Sunday and if Scarlett Johansson wanted to give me a 3 hour BJ, after 45 minutes, I would see if she wanted to just cuddle. 3 hours is grueling, especially the drive to Charlotte, which is closer to 2.5. You think you are doing well until you realize you are only in Greensboro and you debate giving up and just getting a hotel for the night until the whole thing blows over. That is how much I despise any 3-hour tour. [Editor’s Note: Remember that hatred when I am tallying the score later.]

The night before the show, I couldn’t get to sleep. Either I was extremely excited to see one of the most influential bands of my youth or I ate some bad chicken. In all likelihood, it was a combination of the two. I debated even going into work at all that day but I decided to make a cameo because I am a saint. [Editor’s Note: The patron saint of bitterness and regret, but a saint nonetheless.] I then ate a sandwich (turkey) and met up with the true star of RDU Music, our photographer Lan with his lovely wife Bex in tow. Sadly, we didn’t have press credentials for this one so we were forced to attend as merely part of the general population. We hit the road and spun the underrated “Bloodflowers” at my suggestion when Bex wanted to familiarize herself with some of the newer Cure tunes. Since the turn of the millennium, the Cure has been batting a surprising .666, not an easy feat for a band that has been making quality records longer than I have been alive. “Bloodflowers” was dark enough to close out the Trilogy [Editor’s Note: “Pornography” and “Disintegration” for those of you playing at home.] and “3:14 Dream” was the biggest surprise of 2008 for me. 2004’s self-titled Cure release, inexplicably produced by Ross Robinson, was the only misstep.

Our drive was largely uneventful barring some construction so we pulled into the amphitheater parking lot around six. The most shocking moment of the entire day was that no one charged us to park. I was speechless. Also, every amphitheater is exactly the same to point where it is almost disorienting. I felt my memories bleeding together into a soupy mess as I tried to differentiate between shows I had seen at PNC, Walnut Creek, and Sandstone, or whatever corporate banner is flying overhead these days since they change allegiances like the wind. I eventually had to look them up:

  • PNC Music Pavilion (originally Blockbuster Pavilion and formerly Verizon Wireless Amphitheater)
  • Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek (originally named Hardee’s Walnut Creek Amphitheater and commonly known as Walnut Creek Amphitheater)
  • Providence Medical Center Amphitheater (originally Sandstone Center for the Performing Arts, then Sandstone Amphitheater, Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and Capitol Federal Park at Sandstone and then Cricket Wireless Amphitheater)

I ponied up some extra cash to have an actual seat. It was even covered overhead in case of inclement weather. I have decided that I am “too cool” for lawn seats. I am a grown man in my 30s with a reasonable handle on my personal finances. I don’t want to sit in the grass on a blanket that will quickly be infested with ants and chiggers. Our seats were surprisingly good as well. There aren’t really any “bad” seats in the house when you visit one of these cookie-cutter amphitheaters but the converse is also true: there aren’t really any “great” seats either unless you want to pay at least 4x a reasonable rate. Either way, I was happy. We had a good vantage point to see a few of my childhood idols.

Since we were about an hour early, we wandered around the pavilion for a while, sampling the fare and trying to find a beer that I actually wanted to drink. I know I am picky, but I just hate spending $13.50 on a 24oz Bud Light. Bex found one tap with a Natty Greene’s Buckshot handle so I placed my order. Naturally, they didn’t actually have Buckshot because life is not fair by any stretch of the imagination so I settled for a Stella. It was so hot out in the Carolina wastelands that I had pounded 3/4 of it before we finally made it to our seats. When I sat down, I felt my testicles immediately adhere to my inner thigh so I drank the remainder of my beer then ventured back out for another. While we were out, we also stopped by the rather reasonably priced merch booth where I bought a $5 button set. [Editor’s Note: I’m apparently really into buttons these days but only 2 of the 5 Cure buttons were cool enough to earn a spot on my laptop bag alongside other champions such as Remembering Never and The Black Queen.]

By the time we made it back to our seats for the 3rd time, Glasgow’s The Twilight Sad were ready to take the stage. I was already acquainted with them after hearing 2012’s “No One Can Ever Know” so I knew they would be a solid compliment to the vibe that the Cure was intending to bring to the table here in 2016. They are purveyors of the downtrodden Euro rock sound that is not altogether dissimilar to contemporaries such as Radiohead, Muse, and Coldplay. The Twilight Sad tries to be simply…sadder. They succeeded with their Morrissey-like frontman and beat-driven sound reminiscent of Joy Division in places. [Editor’s Note: 3/5 = Good.] It must be a uniquely odd experience to open amphitheater shows for a juggernaut like the Cure. Yes, you get to fulfill a lifelong goal of opening for the fucking Cure but you get to do so to a disinterested, 3/4 empty venue before the sun sets. Indeed, it was hotter than two rats fucking in a wool sock, prompting the TS’s frontman to proclaim that this might have been the hottest show they have ever played, being from Scotland and all.

As night began to fall, saving the skin on the back of my neck from blistering, the Cure sent the crowd into an immediate frenzy with the opening chimes of “Pictures of You,” a perennial favorite. They then just kept dropping hit after hit from their stellar 40 year career. Seriously, just look at this setlist. They touched on just about every major release throughout their 4-encore, 33-song set. And this brings me back to the beginning: 3 hours is too long of a set. I feel bad for grousing about my #firstworldproblems [Editor’s Note: Aww, did your favorite band play too many songs? Oh, you poor thing.] but I could have done without the last two encores. Furthermore, when almost half of your set consists of encores, are they even really “encores” anymore? [Editor’s Note: Mind = blown.] For me, they blew their load on the first two encores, playing a couple of my personal favorites, “Burn” and “A Letter to Elise,” but I appreciate that they dug a bit deeper as well, playing quite a few non-album tracks plus the two new songs they have been trying out on this tour. I am sure there is a large contingent of fans who would think I was crazy for saying they played too long at an amphitheater show considering the elevated ticket prices so I can’t deny that we all got our money’s worth but I feel that the overall effect would have stronger and more magical with a bit of editing. [Editor’s Note: See the exemplary 14-song set by Jane’s Addiction that I referenced at the beginning of the article.]

Overall, Robert Smith and co. sounded great. They are not one of those bands that grow tired of their material and feel the need to “mix it up” by changing the vocal melodies or adding superfluous guitar wankery. They know what the fans want. They’ve brought down more houses than most of us have had hot meals. Due to their lengthy tenure, I expected them to phone it in a little and bring some session musicians to do the heavy lifting but that was not their style. They keep doing this because they love it. My only audio-related complaint was that Robert’s stage banter was nigh unintelligible. I seriously couldn’t make out a thing he was saying but amphitheater audio is a fickle mistress. The fact that I was still able to get goosebumps in 90+ degree heat when Robert sang, “…but I let the dream go, and the promises broke and the make-believe ran out…” was all that I ever needed to know.

4/5 stars = Great
The Cure Tour 2016 was a great career retrospective by one of the most influential rock bands of all time.