Thrilling The Arabs – The Cure in NZ 1981

Still a cult act when they toured NZ in 1981, The Cure were down-to-earth enough to “hang” with their Wellington fans and even jam with a local group, writes GARY STEEL.

 

The Cure jam with local bands in Wellington, 1981. Pic: Charles Jameson

Note: This story was originally published in In Touch magazine in 1981.

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.

 

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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.

The Cure jam with local bands in Wellington, 1981. Pic: Charles Jameson

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 Cure party in a Wellington flat, 1981. Pic: Charles Jameson

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.

The Cure party in a Wellington flat. Pic: Charles Jameson

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.

The Cure jam with local bands in Wellington, 1981. Pic: Charles Jameson

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.

  • In 2017 Stuff published a piece on this legendary event. It’s possibly more accurate than the above account.

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