The Cure at Utilita Arena Birmingham 7.12.2022 with The Twilight Sad supporting
The Cure must be the most successful band that I have followed since my youth. They have become an enormous global success with a steady recording output until 2008. Thirteen studio albums. From the light and poppy singles to works of swirling atmospheric depression. Their set lists for the last ten years have been an absolute feast, with long sets packed with gems: two or three hours’ worth.
It is that last ten years where I started seeing them live regularly – six times now since Reading Festival in August 2012. In December 2014 it was the relatively intimate Hammersmith Apollo – one of three nights of three-hour sets (21.12.2014). I remember wondering where those three hours evaporated to. An incredible gig.
Two years later I was at the Wembley SEE Arena gig (1.12.2016) – a heavy session and no food before that one I recall (‘Eating is not cheating!’). Then in July 2018 there was the 40th anniversary of The Cure gig in Hyde Park.
A blisteringly hot day and England beat Sweden 2-0 in the World Cup. I watched it in an upstairs room of the Stanhope Arms near Gloucester Road tube station. This meant missing several of the support bands but The Cure set itself was perfect. A 10/10. I remember walking away from that thinking I would never see a better Cure gig. That remains the case today, despite the recent wonderful performances. (I had my best camera at that one and the memories adorn my wall at home.)
Next was a Pyramid Stage headliner slot at Glastonbury 2019. Another great show. As I return to Birmingham, my home for seven years in the 80s, for the December 2022 show, I am reminded of my first Cure gig, at Birmingham Odeon for The Top album tour on 29.4.1984.
I got the bus into town on my own from my shared rented student house in Balsall Heath, in the hope of picking up a ticket outside for the sell-out gig. Even touted tickets were reasonably priced in those days. I found a lad who asked if I was looking for a spare ticket – he only wanted face value for it, a mere £4.50. I gratefully gave him a fiver as I had no change. I went in and sat down and he later appeared from the bar, as his seat was next to me, and gave me the 50p change saying he didn’t want to make on it. Turned out he was on the dole and looking for work. A rock’n’roll angel eh.
The support band that night were And Also the Trees, who also played one of the support slots at the 2014 Hammersmith gig – they’re old friends of The Cure.
The Utilita Arena Birmingham (ex-National Indoor Arena) is just north of the nightspot area of Broad Street, along the canal, just to the west of the city centre. So much choice of where to eat and drink first. It’s a 15,800 capacity venue, tonight with the main floor all standing. It can squash down to 2,500 with the use of moveable partition curtains and flexible seating.
Tonight we are seated just a few rows up from the floor in a forward left block. This gives an excellent view over the heads of those in the standing area. (Tonight we are Plymouth Dave, Ann, John ‘The Dove’, Jeanette and Sally. Glastonbury 2019 Cure gig revisited.)
The support band are The Twilight Sad, from Kilksyth, Scotland and their lead singer does sound exceptionally Scottish. They were one of the support bands for The Cure at Hyde Park 2018.
What a great sound. Haunting indie rock and very Cure compatible. A fairly short eight song set but highly enjoyable. I grabbed one phone video: That Summer at Home, I had Become the Invisible Boy (My YouTube channel link). I was surprised to find they have made five albums, the first in 2007. I’d certainly look out for them again.
It is another wonderful Cure show that plucks 28 songs from their 13 albums in a set lasting just over two and a half hours. I left my pocket zoom camera behind for this trip – a shame in some ways but I don’t supposed I could better my previous pics. Hence just a few phone shots to illustrate this performance.
Pictures of You was the second out of the box – a beauty. There are some early classics which particularly grab me: Three Imaginary Boys from that first album, Play for Today, Primary, and Shake Dog Shake, the only track tonight from The Top album that was the tour I first saw them live on back in 1984. Excellent sound as the guitars echo and swirl, filling the arena.
The band leave the stage after Endsong but there is plenty still to come. They return with I Can Never Say Goodbye from their long-awaited forthcoming album Songs of a Lost World. In interviews Robert Smith talks about several family losses in recent years and this song is clearly hugely emotional for him to deliver. A new album coming is a real treat.
“From out the cool November night;
Something wicked this way comes;
To steal away my brother’s life;
Somеthing wicked this way comes;
I could nevеr say goodbye” (The Cure 2022)
Robert Smith says thank you, smiles and makes loving, appreciative gestures to the crowd, but remains calm, moving slowly around the limits of the stage. He is the only original Cure member but it is his show and his band.
In this first encore, or part two, one of my favourites – Charlotte Sometimes – and I guess the song and single of my Cure record buying youth: A Forest. Brilliant.
They leave the stage again. Is that the end? No. Back for a second encore, or third part, to finish. Some more poppy numbers including Friday I’m In Love and Boys Don’t Cry to end. Robert Smith has sung all night but he can hardly speak at the finish, his voice croaking and squeaking. He made it though and once again we are grateful. It was a bit more than £4.50 this one mind.