Recorded live on November 11th and 12th in 2002 at the Tempodrom Berlin, The Cure played a concert that had Cure fans, usually associated with the color black, turn green with envy with the announcement the band would perform in their entirety the albums Pornography, Disintegration, and Bloodflowers, which as Robert Smith says, “are inextricably linked in so many ways.”
Intentionally or not, the performance commemorates Pornography’s 20th anniversary and the Blu-ray release commemorates Disintegration’s. It was previously available as a DVD in 2003.
The band’s line-up for this concert is a quintet whose members have different levels of familiarity with this music. Alongside Smith, as of this writing, are current band members bassist Simon Gallup, the second longest-serving member of The Cure, who played on all three studio albums, and drummer Jason Cooper, who only played on Bloodflowers.
The remainder, but no less important, are now-former members keyboardist Roger O’Donnell, during his second stint with the band, who played on Disintegration and Bloodflowers, and multi-instrumentalist Perry Bamonte, who like Cooper only played on Bloodflowers.
In the bonus material, Smith called them the most dynamic line-up of The Cure.
The Blu-ray does a great job recreating the concert experience right from the start as the only audio running during the menu are the sounds of audience anticipation. Thankfully not included are the idiots who obstruct your view with their phones so they can record the concert — only to watch a tiny blurry video with distorted audio later, rather than experiencing the fullness of the moment — and the posers who chat amongst themselves until the hits are played.
Pornography is an exquisitely dark, intense album and “One Hundred Years” is a perfect entry point. The synthesizer, drums, and bass lay down an eerie drone for the guitars to glide along with. The mood perfectly set for Smith to sing out the opening lyrics, “It doesn’t matter if we all die.”
Regardless of the angst and anguish expressed in the songs, there’s a comfort to be had in knowing many share these experiences, and Smith documents them better than most. The music assists in the dynamic, such as the keyboards on “Cold,” which envelop Smith’s lyrics and the listener within a warm caress. The band takes a break at the end of the title track, and Smith tells the crowd, “See you in seven years”
Disintegration, the best album ever according to Kyle from South Park, is the album that broke The Cure into the mainstream, or, it may be more accurate to say, is when the mainstream caught up with The Cure. Four singles were released in the U.S. with “Lovesong” going to #2. The music is much more melodic than on Pornography, psychedelia blending with the gothic. The lyrics cover a wider range of love and emotion from the narrator in love on “Lovesong,” who lost love in “Pictures of You,” and the one who “never said I would stay to the end” in the title track. After the set, Robert briefly addresses the crowd, “Another 11 years” as the band walks offstage.
In 2000, Bloodflowers completed the trilogy and while it may not have the same high level of consistent quality throughout, I would put rate “Watching Me Fall” and “39” as good as anything they have ever done. Where the performance on Pornography sounds very precise, the re-creation of Bloodflowers has the most variation from the studio album, likely due to the band’s familiarity with the music they created. A highlight from this set is Bamonte’s stellar guitar work, which soars on “Watching Me Fall.
In an odd bit of editing, the main feature ends with the band returning to the stage and then cuts to the menu. Then you have to access the bonus material to see a 13-minute encore of “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep” and “The Kiss” from the album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987), two very good choices that match the theme of the evening’s music. Gallup is again the only member with Smith, who appeared on the studio album, although O’Donnell had been a member of the touring band that supported it.
Nick Wickham does a masterful job directing the visuals. He allows the viewer to see the band play and along with his editor, Mark ‘Reg’ Wrench, allows the rhythm of the music to help dictate the pacing of the edits. “The Kiss” is utterly frantic and matches perfectly.
The show is constantly awash in an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors and the Blu-ray brilliantly recreates them in 1080i and a ratio of 1.78:1. There is as much as detail as the director wants to give the viewer as he switches sources from high-def cameras to purposefully distorted images through an old TV set. Some cameras are in sharp focus and you can see the many strands of Robert’s hair-sprayed locks, or the texture on his guitar straps on close-up.
Naturally, cameras farther away and those altering focus don’t have the same clarity but the changing perspectives are fine. Not content to just show the band playing under flashing colored lights, the image gets manipulated at times, like during “A Short Term Effect,” creating a disorientation. The only flaw is the occasional, but unavoidable lens flare.
The insert states, “This is a live concert film – it was played loud…so turn it up!!!” I couldn’t agree more. The audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and LPCM. The DTS is great. Surrounding the listener with music and audience ambiance. The instruments are well balanced in the mix, and Gallup’s bass can be heard nicely reverberating through the subwoofer. Smith’s vocals are clear even on the songs I am not completely familiar with. The LPCM is an adequate choice, although the music mainly comes out the front speaker. I can’t recommend the Dolby Digital 5.1. As I alternated audio options during songs, the sound level dropped and I had to raise it up by 10 to get close of what the other two were coming through as.
Bonus material includes a 40-minunte interview of the band talking aboout the project. Previous easter eggs from the DVD release are now easily accessible. Two alternate angles offer a close-up fisheye lens set on Robert’s mic during “Same Deep Water As You” and a splitscreen of the two nights during “Plainsong, the audio terrible on the latter. There are also 90 seconds of outakes from the interview.
Coming in at over three hours, Trilogy is a wonderfully draining experience, musically and emotionally. The only disappointment is learning The Cure played second encores each night and they are not included. Just one of these sets would be worth owning, but combined they are a must-have, especially if you are a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Aside from the great number of songs they created, no band not inducted has had more of an impact on music and musicians.