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7/10/1986  The New York Times (7-8-86 Pier 54, New York Show Review)
Rock: The Cure at Pier 54

The Cure is one of rock’s most single-minded bands, dedicated to nightmare surrealism and unremitting despair. It played a sold-out concert Tuesday at Pier 84, bringing bleak, private emotions into a public arena.

The songs have the conciseness of pop without its reassurance. Robert Smith, the Cure’s main songwriter, sings in a whipped cur’s yelp, and his lyrics are obsessed with things he doesn’t have, such as love, and hope. "Your life is cold/your life is hard/your life is too much for words," he sang in one song; in another, he asked, "Does it matter if we all die?"

Mr. Smith writes songs in three tempos - dirge, march and dance - and two varieties, murky synthesizer drones or clearer, riff-driven guitar rockers, all kept to a punk-inspired minimum of chords. At times, as in songs by Siouxsie and the Banshees (a band that Mr. Smith has worked with), the tunes are topped with Arabic-tinged guitar or synthesizer lines; occasionally they stick with a riff long enough to generate considerable momentum.

But in performance, the band does its best not to yield simple pleasures. Mr. Smith matter-of-factly announces the name of each selection; up-tempo songs stop dead, to be followed by dirges. The audience at Pier 84, on its feet and willing to dance, would get started and then get frustrated again and again.

Mr. Smith’s obsessions can be draining at concert length. After an hour, listeners might wonder why he doesn’t stop whining and get on with life. Still, the Cure is true to its themes; it doesn’t try to hide bad news in good-time music. Perhaps the Cure’s music is simply unsuited to the community atmosphere of an outdoor rock concert. Mr. Smith’s misery doesn’t thrive in company.

- John Pareles


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