December 05, 2011
Sunday Best

Album Review

The Cure could be found in a mix of holding pattern and seemingly constant activity in 2011, with an irregular series of world-wide performances of the band's first three albums and a slew of guest appearances and one-offs by Robert Smith on his own and with other performers standing in for either new or reissued albums. But there was also a one-off headlining performance at the Bestival in the U.K. that summer, resulting in the band's first official live album since the Show and Paris releases of 1993. Feeling more like a souvenir than anything else, it's above all a portrait of a band that has the knack of handling a career-spanning catalog down cold, something with both positive and negative sides to it. On the one hand, besides a thankfully clear mix that feels like a brisk soundboard recording, there's the treat of hearing a then-unique quartet lineup of Smith, Simon Gallup, and Jason Cooper matched with the then-recently returned Roger O'Donnell adding keyboards for the first time in some years. If it's not quite Seventeen Seconds all over again, performances of "Play for Today" and the inevitable "A Forest" do happily nod in that direction. Smith himself still sounds in astonishingly well-preserved voice, only occasionally stepping aside from some high notes while sounding as moodily powerful as ever on guitar -- not to mention as half-understandable as ever on his occasional song introductions. On the other hand, Smith and company have been playing this kind of set for years upon years when it comes to general or festival audiences, emphasizing the big hits of the first 15 years of their career. Out of 32 songs, literally only three of them couldn't have appeared on either Show or Paris -- happily one of them being the underrated "The Hungry Ghost" from 4:13 Dream -- while the remainder of the selections leans much more toward the hits and singles than the album cuts, stalwarts like "Plainsong," "Push," and "Disintegration" aside. (Though the appearance of "The Caterpillar" is a fun surprise, having never been played for a full-on show by the band once since 1984.) Bestival Live 2011 is an understandably honest reflection of the Cure in the popular mind as their commercial high point recedes further into the past, but given Smith and the band's other contemporaneous activities, it's an incomplete portrait.
Ned Raggett, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Plainsong
  2. Open
  3. Fascination Street
  4. A Night Like This
  5. The End of the World
  6. Lovesong
  7. Just Like Heaven
  8. The Only One
  9. The Walk
  10. Push
  11. Friday I'm in Love
  12. Inbetween Days
  13. Play for Today
  14. A Forest
  15. Primary
  16. Shake Dog Shake
  17. The Hungry Ghost
  18. One Hundred Years
  19. End
  20. Disintegration
  21. Lullaby
  22. The Lovecats
  23. The Caterpillar
  24. Close to Me
  25. Hot Hot Hot!!!
  26. Let's Go to Bed
  27. Why Can't I Be You?
  28. Boys Don't Cry
  29. Jumping Someone Else's Train
  30. Grinding Halt
  31. 10:15 Saturday Night
  32. Killing Another
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