ACL Live Shot (Second Weekend): The Cure

Robert Smith summons the rain

Robert Smith (right) and Reeves Gabrels, 10.12.13
Robert Smith (right) and Reeves Gabrels, 10.12.13
photo by Gary Miller

There’s something exquisitely poetic and proper about the Cure closing Saturday’s ACL Fest headlining set in the rain. For an hour and a half, the UK group kept the heavens at bay, before the gathering clouds finally opened with the rush of “Wrong Number.”

Mixing up their set from last weekend’s, “Open” served as apt commencement to the quintet’s moody pop, with Robert Smith’s rat’s-nest hair, smeared lipstick, and bitter, broken balance between dire want and defensive whimsy all deployed for full nostalgic effect. “A Night Like This” and “The End of the World” wracked the emotional real, but “Lovesong” and “Just Like Heaven” brought the crowd in full-throated support.

Little energy projected from the stage save for Simon Gallups’ stalking bass, but Smith’s tortured solipsism provided more than enough catalyst to spark fire through the chiming jam of “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” and ripping “Fascination Street.” “Pictures of You” set the crowd dancing in contrast to the frontman’s desperate self-clutching as the wind swept in on “High” and the darkly creeping “Lullaby.”

A midset run of “The Lovecats,” “Close to Me,” and “Hot Hot Hot” re-tuned playfully uptempo, even as “Caterpillar” fell flat amid Smith’s unhinged reach. “The Walk,” “Stop Dead,” and “Push” settled back into classic Cure’s conflicted ambivalence, until “In Between Days,” “Friday I’m in Love,” and an exceptional “Doing the Unstuck” surged into the deafening boom of “Want” and scathing “The Hungry Ghost.”

And then the first drops fell in cool relief against the torrent of “Wrong Number” and bleeding pall of “One Hundred Years,” the latter’s call of “waiting for the death blow” beckoning the thunder. The rain may have jettisoned crowds for home, but for the Cure it unleashed a vitality that flooded through “Give Me It” and “End.” And though the set ended abruptly with “Boys Don’t Cry” as crews scrambled to cover the stage, the downpour brought the show full-circle back to “Open.”

“And the way the rain comes down hard, that’s how I feel inside.”

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