The Cure: 40 Live collects two outstanding concerts performed in the summer of 2018 as founder Robert Smith, bassist Simon Gallup (1979-1982, 1985-present), drummer Jason Cooper (1995-present), keyboardist Roger O’Donnell (1987-1990, 1995-2005, 2011-present), and Reeves Gabrels (2012-present) celebrated the band’s 40th anniversary,
Disc 1 contains CURÆTION-25: From There To Here | From Here To There, a concert held on the 10th and final night of Robert Smith’s Meltdown Festival on June 24 at London’s Royal Festival Hall, an intimate theater with a capacity of 2,700. The lucky group of fans who attended got to hear a retrospective 28-song set that covered the band’s career, as they performed songs off each studio album.
The first half of the set was titled “From There to Here.” They start with the title track off Three Imaginary Boys (1979) and move through the years arriving at “It’s Over” from 4:13 Dream (2008). They ended with the non-album track “It Can Never Be the Same” that they debuted on The Cure Tour 2016. As the name indicates, From Here To There sees then use the same format for the second half but reverse it, opening with non-album track “Step Into the Light” and concluding with the title track off their North American debut Boys Don’t Cry.
The band is in very fine form. Smith’s evocative vocals matching the emotions of the arrangements. The rhythm section of Gallup’s bass and Cooper’s drums are steady and allow the others to create sounds that seem unique to the Cure. Though not frequently talked about, they are all talented musicians.
No matter what album led a listener to the Cure, there’s something for them but this isn’t the set for those who only know the hits. While they play songs, such as “Pictures of You” and “Primary”, this concert is for those who enjoy deep cuts like “Bananafishbones” and “Jupiter Crash”.
Director Nick Wickham plays with the imagery to augment the mood and make the concert film more interesting visually. During “Three Imaginary Boys” and “Boys Don’t Cry”, the video effects make it look like they are of the era when the songs were released. Some times the color is stripped away, as with “Other Voices”. Other times, the content on the concert video screens are dissolved over the band, a double exposure appearance. During “It’s Over”, the focus is manipulated as objects appear to be slowly coming apart, like seeing a 3-D image without the glasses.
Disc 2 is Anniversary, a concert held two weeks later on July 7 at London’s Hyde Park before 65,000. The lucky group of fans who attended got to hear a retrospective 29-song set that covered the band’s career with more a focus on their greatest hits. They repeat nine songs from CURÆTION-25. In order of release, they are “Boys Don’t Cry”, “A Forest”, “Shake Dog Shake”, “A Night Like This”, “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep”, “Disintegration”, “Pictures of You”, “High”, and “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea”.
They began with “Plainsong”, a tad strange to see The Cure play in bright sunlight, and three songs later before “A Night Like This”, Smith talks about how draining the sun is. But the song isn’t diminished as Roger O’Donnell’s keyboards create shimmering sheets that wash over the listener. They would go on to play six tracks from Disintegration, the most from any album, which isn’t a surprise as its their best selling.
Director Tim Pope shot Anniversary in a more traditional manner. The cameras around the band showcase the musicians playing and the cameras further back reveal how vast the audience is. During “The Walk”, cameras catch slightly distorted imges of the band and the editing as a quickened pace. During “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep”, images start to bleed apart into rainbows. Due to the cameras or an effect added in post, the image shakes during “Shake “Dog Shake”.
The band sounds just as wonderful as they did on the previous concert, as is Smith’s vocals who is much more playful this evening, possibly due to the lightness of some songs. He dances for moments while they play “Fascination Street” and “Lullaby,” looking directly into the camera during the latter. Singing but not playing on “Close To Me” and “Why I Can’t Be You?” allows him to gyrate as well. He reflects on the anniversary, thanking fans, before heading into the final run of songs from their debut albums.
The video has been given a 1080i/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 unless manipulated. Colors pop in bright hues. Blacks are inky. The image delivers strong contrast. Details come through clearly and objects rarely go out of focus even as the band members move around. The concert lighting team must have taken the filming into account or modern video cameras are so good it didn’t matter
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is a strong track with great fidelity and a wide dynamic range, capturing the band at full force or isolated individuals. Smith’s vocals can be clearly heard throughout the show, primarily out the front center with echo bleeding into other channels. The music fills the surrounds as does audience ambiance like when they sing along to keyboard line during “Play For Today”. The subwoofer delivers a booming bottom end anchored by Gallup’s bass, yet never distorts.
The Cure: 40 Live is a must-own set for fans, and Anniversary, in particular, is a perfect introduction to the band’s great talents. These two concerts make clear why they have been such an influential force for so long. The high-def elements deliver a marvelous presentation that will satisfy one’s eyes and ears.