Review Special: The Cure Anniversary – 1978-2018 – Live in Hyde Park London

This film is a recording of a live concert of the iconic rock band The Cure at Hyde Park, London in July 2018 – the anniversary of their first live performance 40 years earlier. It is directed by Tim Pope, a long-time collaborator with The Cure and a producer of nearly all of their music videos, and countless other music videos by equally famous pop-rock icons.

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The film begins in brilliant afternoon sunshine with the opening number Plain Song, and ends 29 songs later under the stars, with colour-filter lights silhouetting the band during their encore. These are 29 songs spanning the life of the band and they include hit after hit, performed in their sometimes upbeat, sometimes haunting, but consistently mesmerising style. Fans of The Cure will love this film. There are few camera tricks and limited special effects utilised. Rather, Pope has simply filmed the band as they play one song after another with perfect timing. Tim Pope does use a few ‘pop video’ edits here and there, such as cuts from different angles. ‘Shake Dog Shake does get a slight make-over in this regard, with jerky, double-exposed camera and exaggerated colours added. But mostly it is long takes of the guys playing their instruments, with slow in, slow-out camera zooms. While every reviewer has credited it as a great film due to the music simply holding your attention, some are a little disappointed because as a film, it isn’t a whole lot more than the band performing (as good as that is).

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Tim Pope is a respected film director of music videos, best known for his often quirky and arty videos of The Cure. He has done two dozen of their songs, including ‘Pictures of You (1990) and the stunning ‘Lullaby’ (1989), which Tim Burton cites as having an influence on his own visual style in film. He has also made music videos for Neil Young, David Bowie, The Psychedelic Furs, Talk Talk, The The, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Madonna, Fat Boy Slim, Soft Cell, The Style Council and a host of others. Check out Pope’s off-beat but delightful music clips of Marc Arnold’s ‘Kind of Love’ (2017), Neil Young’s quirky ‘Wonderin’’ (1983), The Style Council’s ‘Money-Go-Round’ (1983) and the slightly freakish ‘I Can’t Read’ and ‘Repetition (1997) by David Bowie, shot by Pope backstage at Bowie’s 50th Birthday concert.

Pope also directed the 1996 feature film The Crow: City of Angels (the second film in The Crow series), as well as The Cure in Orange (1987), a film of the band performing live in 1986 at the Théâtre antique d’Orange, a Roman amphitheatre in southern France. This is a stunning film of a perfect concert. The setting, the coloured lights and the slight pop-style video effects add to a smoky-light mood of a swaying crowd and glam-silhouettes of concentrating musicians. It is one of the better films of a live rock band (and you can watch it here). These are all visually interesting, but I like the minimalist video techniques of this current anniversary concert in London. These guys are no longer the pretty boys of pop (or Goth rock), but it doesn’t matter. Frankly, I didn’t want to see a two hour pop video, I wanted to watch a great band play great songs. I like the fact that the long-held close-ups in the sun caught the lines of age and concentration. I just appreciate them for who they are without all the flashy tricks. But whatever, no one disagrees that the music isn’t good enough to keep you from enjoying yourself. At the cinema I saw this at several people were mildly rocking in their chairs and singing along (I was). It was fun.

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Which brings us to another point that I thought I would comment on since I have you here. Too often reviewers and commentators talk about The Cure as great musicians but with a distinct down-beat, even morose tone. Sure, there are some deeply soulful or even mournful songs in their oeuvre but mostly that is not the case. There are so many love songs sung in harmonies that are a touch complex, slow and deliberate. And there’s a romantic poetry to them that is rarely matched by other bands or songwriters. They speak to the beauty of love and companionship with a soul mate. Here’s just a few examples from the songs in this anniversary concert set list:

Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again

From ‘Love Song’

I’m coming to find you, if it takes me all night
A witch hunt for another girl
For always and ever is always for you
Your trust, the most gorgeously stupid thing I ever cut in the world

From ‘A Night Like This’

I kissed her face and kissed her head
And dreamed of all the different ways
I had to make her glow
“Why are you so far away?” she said
“Why won’t you ever know that I’m in love with you?
That I’m in love with you?”

From ‘Just Like Heaven’

The whole experience of The Cure in concert is poetry. Robert Smith sings every note tone-perfect. The band are so in sync with each other that it is such a delight to see. But equally the sound is so good that you can close your eyes and just float in the moment. Do I sound like a ‘Cure fan’?

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There are other great live performances of The Cure out there too. I would recommend The Cure at the 2013 music festival in Lollapalozza or the more recent Disintegration 30 year anniversary concert at the Sydney Opera House (filmed by veteran stage-film director Nick Wickham). There is something amazing about seeing a live concert on a wide screen with an appreciative crowd. The set-list is just a delight. From slow bass-pronounced tunes such as ‘A Forest’ through to upbeat love ditties ‘Friday I’m in Love’, the hauntingly soulful ‘From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea’, the quirky ‘Never Enough’ and power-house rock ‘Shake Dog Shake’. At the opening chords of ‘Lullaby’, a chorus of cheers sweeps across the audience. It’s wonderful. Here’s the set-list in full:

  1. ‘Plainsong’
  2. ‘Pictures Of You’
  3. ‘High’
  4. ‘A Night Like This’
  5. ‘The Walk’
  6. ‘The End Of The World’
  7. ‘Lovesong’
  8. ‘Push’
  9. ‘In Between Days’
  10. ‘Just Like Heaven’
  11. ‘If Only Tonight We Could Sleep’
  12. ‘Play For Today’
  13. ‘A Forest’
  14. ‘Shake Dog Shake’
  15. ‘Burn’
  16. ‘Fascination Street’
  17. ‘Never Enough’
  18. ‘From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea’
  19. ‘Disintegration’
  20. ‘Lullaby’
  21. ‘The Caterpillar’
  22. ‘Friday I’m In Love’
  23. ‘Close To Me’
  24. ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’
  25. ‘Boys Don’t Cry’
  26. ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’
  27. ‘Grinding Halt’
  28. ’10:15 Saturday Night’
  29. ‘Killing An Arab’

To end with the lyrics of an iconic Cure song:

And let’s move to the beat like we know that it’s over
If you slip going under, slip over my shoulder
So just pull on your face, just pull on your feet
And let’s hit opening time down on Fascination Street

From ‘Fascination Street’

Reviewed by Robin Stevens – Rated 4/5

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