In 1981, The Cure toured through NZ around the release of Faith, their third album. Still a cult act at the time, they were down-to-earth enough to “hang” with their Wellington fans, and even jam with a local group. Gary Steel wrote about it in his rock mag, IT.
Thrilling The Arabs
Picture this: a grimy basement room at Clyde Quay school, Mt Victoria. The early hours of Tuesday the 4th of August, 1981. Intense, distorted, risky sounds are being jammed, creating an atmosphere for twenty to thirty hardcore fans to freak-out in.
Murky strains of ‘The Forest’ pierce the air. The Cure are playing their best NZ gig.
Flashback to the previous Sunday. The Cure at Palmerston North; an endless flat expanse of quarter acre sections and nuclear families locked into tour paranoia – the Boks passed through the day before.
Two thousand odd (very) catch The Cure at a huge new basketball stadium. It is perfect. The sound is clear, the venue aligning nicely with the impressive lighting and general nature of the band’s music.
Unfortunately, the audience seem to comprise largely of young bozos called Bobo taking Miss Suburban Creamcheese out for an alternative to heavy petting at the Sunday night kung fu double feature. These customers want good ol’ fashioned entertainment like The Angels who played the week before; what they get is a brave selection of the more recent, slower material. The encore is a value-for-money demand more than a frenzied show of approval. The band show where they’re at by doing an unexpected second encore for those who haven’t scurried out prematurely, so they effectively give their real fans the best part of the show; a lovely ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and a long, psychedelic jam.
The boys are unhappy with the show – they’ve had no sleep since arriving in NZ three days earlier. A post-concert do at crummy nite-spot El Clubbo is more like a funeral party than a party out of bounds. The Cure car runs out of petrol somewhere on the way to Wellington at approximately 2.30am.
Wellington fans put on a house party for the group on Monday night. It’s a polite, slightly too reverent (how would you feel if The Cure visited your flat?) affair, fans sitting floor-wise chatting and asking questions. The Cure; three approachable British boys with a little more makeup than yer average Wellington trendy, but far less pretentious. The band enjoy this unusual (for them) occasion.
At 1am everyone jumps in the nearest mode of transport and screams to the Neoteric Tribesmen’s rehearsal basement, where an amazing jam session takes place. It’s not an elite, musicianly display of chops; nor is it quite a drunken dirge. It’s rather a type of communion twixt fans/bands/BAND; a show of respect. That a number one group could do this made one believe that something HAD changed since the ‘70s show of stagnant rock star myths and constant sellouts.
Lol Tolhurst and ex-Dudes vocalist Peter Urlich (on the tour party) share drum duties. The Neoterics play some originals that sound like blasts from the past. Robert Smith and Simon Gallup progressively grab instruments and join in, until there it is, The Cure running through a version of ‘The Forest’ which bears very little relation to its technologically advanced public version. Domestic Blitz get a chance to play with The Cure on an original, then it’s off with the stragglers back to the group’s hotel, where the lucky ones get to listen to tapes of the new to-be-released single.
Even at the first of the Tuesday night Town Hall concerts The Cure look and sound a little ragged – unsurprisingly. The PA battles against notorious acoustics to little avail, but the audience go apeshit nevertheless. Backstage, Robert Smith, properly bushed, sprawls in a chair and dazedly answers the questions of two reporters, and signs autographs. The Carnage Visors film, which opens the concerts, is already rolling again before they know it and the band, unrefreshed, take the stage for the second show. This time, mistakes are made, there is little spark, the crowd are smaller and the music is lackluster by their high standards.
The Cure may not have the God-given (NME, stupid) punk, common-man credibility of The Clash, but their responsible attitude upholds, to me, most of the virtues that band has oft been lauded with. The Cure care (almost too much). In fact, they care so much that they’re on a self-destruct course, in one way or another. This, methinks, is the last time NZ sees The Cure in these circumstances or form. GARY STEEL
The following review was published in the Evening Post, 19-5-81:
The Cure – Faith (Stunn Records)
Faith, released yesterday, will inevitably be likened to its brilliant predecessor, Seventeen Seconds.
It is, in fact, a rather different proposition. Faith is slower and bleaker. The textures weaved are deeper.
The Cure membership’s obsession with Joy Division has given birth to Faith, which dwells on similar subjects to that defunct group: doubt, death, faith, fate.
Not altogether the healthiest of obsessions, The Cure manage to carry it off without emerging as another drowning Joy Division copyist band.
The Cure are always The Cure, regardless of current influences. They have a sound of their own. If anything, this new fatalism has produced a Cure with an inner strength that was formerly obscured.
‘Primary’ is the only conceivable single here. The rest are desperate cries and funereal marches. The slower the songs, the more reminiscent of Joy Division they are; yet these are the most powerful and the ones I come back to regularly.
Despite the departure of keyboardist Matthieu Hartley, the three-piece group produce lovely sounds of deep dimensions. Dronish keyboards are prominent in the slow songs, as is bass. Peculiarly, guitar is devoid from several tracks and several basses are instead deployed.
The Cure may not be innovators but that makes them no less important. GARY STEEL
* Check out our previous historic items on The Cure here, and here.