Given that the Cure is a 35-year-old act whose last major hits were written 20 years ago, the youthfulness of its crowd for the first of two ACL headlining sets was surprising.
Opening with a sluggish “Plainsong,” the band – led, as always, by founder Robert Smith – scanned tentative, with a chunky and worn-looking Smith seeming particularly unhappy. Yet the Cure founder emoted the follow-up “Pictures of You,” and by the time the band hit “Lullaby,” the entire group was more animated. Momentum established, the Cure could do no wrong.
Loosely dividing the concert into thirds, the band spent the first part on hits both massive and missed, from the jangly “High” and moody “Lovesong” to the funky “The Walk” and brooding “Fascination Street.” A buoyant “Just Like Heaven” indicated the band isn’t burned out on its biggest hit yet.
Following a strangely detached “Friday I’m in Love,” the live fivepiece shifted from easy pop hits to widescreen anthems, slaying “The Hungry Ghost,” “Want,” and “Doing the Unstuck” with more bloodthirst than previously displayed. “One Hundred Years” and “Disintegration” brought the main set to an epic close.
“I wish we had more time,” Smith lamented as the encore began. As if to dispel the clouds gathered by the previous minor keys, the band indulged its playful side, beginning with “The Lovecats” and continuing with such delightfully silly fare as “The Caterpillar,” “Why Can’t I Be You?,” and “Hot Hot Hot!”
The Cure ended its two-hour set with the sterling guitar pop of 1979’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” a reminder that Robert Smith’s distinctive vision remains timeless.
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