The weather was the first relief.
Being stranded at a Cure concert during a downpour might sound poetic, but it would have been a drag for the several thousand people partying on the lawn at Sunlight Supply Amphitheater when the goth-pop forefathers hit the Portland area for the first time in 20 years.
The second relief was that the Cure sounded fantastic.
For a band that has been around for nearly 40 years, Robert Smith and company looked and sounded remarkably fresh. Smith, of course, is an awkward and goofy fellow, but his enthusiasm for playing to his fans and digging deep into his back catalog was readily apparent.
The set was frontloaded with hits. At least 15,000 aging, black-clad, goth-culture torch bearers smiled and sang along to "Just Like Heaven," "Pictures of You," "The Walk," "Love Song" and more. The Cure may not be radio staples exactly, but its body of work has permeated countless ears and souls over the last several decades.
Toward the end of the first set—and the actual sunset—the darkness came out. "The Hanging Garden" and "One Hundred Years" from Pornography may have been obvious selections, but they did not disappoint. Simon Gallup reveled in his gut-churning bass lines, looking like a vampiric greaser half his actual age. Lead axe for this tour was laid down by David Bowie's sometime-guitarist Reeves Gabrels, who looked much like Philo the mad scientist from Weird Al's cult flick UHF. His solos were jaw-dropping, certainly the most virtuosic element present. Perhaps most impressive was Robert Smith's voice. He sounded perfect. Of course when he spoke between tunes his accent made it nearly impossible to understand him, but please recall that 120 Minutes used to run subtitles during his interviews.
The sound was crystal clear—warm, full, but not loud enough to distort. Sunlight Supply (formerly Amphitheater Northwest, formerly Sleep Country) has a state of the art sound system and regularly hosts bands the caliber of Rush, Styx, etc. The Cure had the best (though, again, not the loudest) sound this writer has personally witnessed at what is always a highly professional venue.
As the night progressed and the air became chillier, the deeper cuts came out. The Cure calls these "encores" but really what it does is dim the lights for a quick break or equipment change and then the show resumes. At the 90-minute mark, Smith quipped, "Hey, we're only halfway done." He was not lying. Over three hours, he grinned, danced, sang and played an array of acoustic and electric guitars. From all appearances he loved every minute of it. So did the fans. During an extended version of "A Forest," everyone in the shed was dancing.
I did not grow up on The Cure. I do not share the nostalgia that a majority of the the people at this concert likely felt. But I can recognize when I'm witnessing a perfect storm of a band doing what it loves for people who love them back, and performing with finesse and passion. After the marathon set ended, I immediately began to wonder when and how I might see the Cure again.