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8/1/1987  New Musical Express (8-10-87 Madison Square Garden New York, New York Show Review)
Perfect Embrace
The Cure
Madison Square Garden, New York

The Cure's ongoing conquest of America is nothing less than a triumph of the will. Without a hit single, a Top 10 album or heavy MTV rotation, without condescending to formula or snakeoil salesmanship, Robert Smith has ascended to his own pop star presidency here by quietly penetration the defences of thrill-seeking teens with his ragamuffin charm and sackful of haunting dream-state sonatas. His apparent waif-like vulnerability on stage explains Smith's surprisingly large, and extremely vocal, femal constituency in this country. But it takes more than "cute" to fill a room like this.

Tonight The Cure did it with a sound that was a marvel to behold. The opening strains of "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me" felt like the beating of some giant metal heart, its hammering heightened by the funereal chime of the guitars. The sexual confusion and emotional trauma coursing through Smiths' songbook shot out from the stage in volleys of silvery guitar shards, prickly keyborad figures and a bass so dark and heavy it seemed to reverberate from the earth's core. The artfully compounded shades of grey in The Cure's sound threw Smith's choirboy yelp into particularly dramatic relief, whether he was dancing through the acoustic fields of "Inbetween Days" or writhing in terror during "Snakepit".

What was there to see? Well, not a lot from the floor anyway, except periodic glimpses of Smith's fire engine red lips and electro-shock coiffure over the heads of spellbound Cure-boppers standing on their chairs. The band's entrance was prefaced by a strangly compelling film of Smith's mouth in extreme close-up reciting some incomprehensible monologue as he filled the giant screen with gleaming monster dentistry and coiling red beast that turned out to be his tongue. Abstract water colours appeared on three white pillar-like back drops while The Cure bathed in the eerie glow of billowing twilight-orange clouds of dry ice.

Playing the Garden didn't appear to faze Smith in the least. Instead of trying to over-compensate for distance with inappropriately grand flourishes, he seemed to retreat even further into himself, bobbing in front of the mike with a rag doll bounce that drove the ladies wild. It is entirely possible that a lot of The Cure's new fans in this country are drunk on Smith's surface appeal as a lovable boy-poet. But tonight, even in this cruelly impersonal concrete and steel dome, it was easy to fall under his impish spell. Has pop angst ever tasted so sweet?

- David Fricke


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