[Review] Concert: The Cure Live (1984)

A remarkably clean-sounding, career-spanning live album recorded during The Top tour.

Kronomyth 7.5: The tops of the pops.

There was an unwritten rule that new wave/punk bands didn’t release live records. It was a reaction to the overblown live albums of the past: Yesshows, Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends, Europe ’72, etc. It was a tacit admission to some that new wave/punk bands couldn’t play their instruments well (which was bunkum). And live albums were product; new wave/punk bands didn’t play that game. Then Siouxsie and the Banshees released Nocturne in 1983, and the rule was overruled.

A year after Nocturne, The Cure released Concert: The Cure Live. Co-produced by Dave Allen, Concert sounds remarkably good for a live album. In fact, this album functions perfectly well as a greatest hits album, since the recordings are clean enough (Robert Smith’s voice sounds great) and clock in at about the same time as the originals or even faster. Shake Dog Shake, for example, a song I apparently didn’t give a fair shake the first time around on The Top, shaves more than forty seconds from the studio version.

As a quintet, The Cure achieve a swirling sound on stage. One Hundred Years and The Hanging Garden from Pornography feel less menacing and more interesting on these performances. Primary from Faith gets a warmer treatment too. The music still pulses with a dark urgency, but you can hear the expanded Cure filling the cold, empty spaces with sound. On the closing 10:15 Saturday Night and Killing an Arab, you get the sense that you’re finally hearing the songs the way that Smith originally intended. Arab in particular sounds positively lovecatty.

Drawn from several May performances around London, Concert is an abridged version of The Top tour that excises many of those songs (“The Top,” “Piggy in the Mirror,” “Bananafishbones,” “Wailing Wall,” “Empty World”) in favor of encores like Arab and Saturday Night. The Walk, A Forest and Charlotte Sometimes were also part of the core setlist, and would make any shortlist of The Best of the Cure up to this point. The crowd noise is minimal in the mix, the few spoken words from Smith are functional and terse. What impresses me on this album is how little the songs change in the crossing from studio to stage, making the back cover’s claim of “no overdubs” all the more impressive.

Oddly, Concert was released everywhere except in the United States. In Canada, fans were even treated to a double-cassette version called Concert and Curiosity that featured a bonus record of bootleg-quality recordings and live performances. Apparently, Americans had little use for a live record from The Cure, or so the experts at Elektra reckoned. I think they reckoned wrong, a point that the gold-selling Standing on a Beach seemed to prove.

Read more Cure reviews

Original elpee version

A1. Shake Dog Shake (Robert Smith) (4:14)
A2. Primary (Robert Smith/Lol Tolhurst/Simon Gallup) (3:29)
A3. Charlotte Sometimes (Robert Smith/Lol Tolhurst/Simon Gallup) (4:06)
A4. The Hanging Garden (Robert Smith/Lol Tolhurst/Simon Gallup) (4:04)
A5. Give Me It (Robert Smith) (2:46)
B1. The Walk (Robert Smith/Lol Tolhurst) (3:31)
B2. One Hundred Years (Robert Smith/Lol Tolhurst/Simon Gallup) (6:48)
B3. A Forest (Robert Smith/Lol Tolhurst/Simon Gallup/Matthieu Hartley) (6:45)
B4. 10:15 Saturday Night (Robert Smith/Lol Tolhurst/Michael Demspey) (3:44)
B5. Killing An Arab (Robert Smith/Lol Tolhurst/Michael Dempsey) (2:51)

The Players

Andy Anderson (drums), Robert Smith (voice, guitar), Porl Thompson (guitar, keyboard, saxophone), Phil Thornalley (bass), Laurence Tolhurst (keyboards). Produced by Dave Allen and The Cure; engineered by Dave Allen.

The Pictures

Cover by Toberr.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc in October 1984 in the UK (Fiction, FIXH10), Argentina, France, Greece and Portugal (Fiction, 823 682-1/4/2), Japan (VAP, 35130-25), Uruguay (Polydor, 823.682-1) and Venezuela (Fiction/Polydor, 30.565-L/C); reached #24 on the UK charts.

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