The Cure in support of Teenage Cancer Trust - 29/3/2014

Review and photograph by Aline Giordano

The Cure‘I’m twenty and that’s about it for that one’ says Amy who suffers from Glioblastoma multiforme. Hers is a grade 4, the highest of the most aggressive brain tumours. So, as she says ‘it’s inoperable, no chance!’. ‘I’m living with it - I suppose’, she adds. Median survival is 15 months.

Director Shane Meadows’ seven minute film for Teenage Cancer Trust reminds us of the real reason why we are here at the Royal Albert Hall, eagerly waiting for The Cure to come onstage. The film closes with Amy’s father’s words: ‘I’m proud of her - very brave girl’. Amy has tears in her eyes and so have I. Before it’s time for The Cure, we have an appearance from Noel Fielding thanking us for buying our tickets and, in so doing, supporting Teenage Cancer Trust. ‘These are the people you’re helping here!’, he says pointing to a group of teenagers who have come to join him onstage.

This is when it hits me. The Cure will most probably be playing their hits like ‘Friday I’m in Love’, ‘In between Days’, ‘The Walk’ etc… but they’ll also play their darker songs like ‘One Hundred Years’ and ‘Plainsong’ and Smith will be opening the show, with these lyrics that I have cherished for twenty five years now:

"I think it's dark and it looks like rain" you said 
"and the wind is blowing 
like it's the end of the world" you said 
"and it's so cold it's like the cold if you were dead" 
and then you smiled for a second 
(Smith, 1989)

A real tearjerker that ‘Plainsong’. As I tried to articulate the tears in an earlier concert review entitled See The Cure and die?, it is undeniable that Robert Smith’s voice has this effect on me. But tonight, I didn’t cry, instead my throat felt tight - very tight. How could I cry about my own human condition and loss when young people like Amy could pass away next week? And I thought: Is The Cure such a good choice of band for this kind of events as one of their recurring themes is death?

The answer to my question came to me as ALL in the venue stood up and danced to ‘In Between Days’, then ‘Friday I’m in Love’ and later ‘Just Like Heaven’ - and many more. It was about being together, doing something as one: Hoping to make a difference to the lives of those affected by cancer. The answer was also staring me in the eyes during songs like ‘Pictures of You’, ‘Catch’ and ‘Lovesong’: The other recurring themes in Smith’s songs are loneliness and love. What is cancer if not about death, loneliness and love?

Remembering you standing quiet in the rain
As I ran to your heart to be near
And we kissed as the sky fell in
Holding you close
How I always held close in your fear
(Smith, 1989)
Nobody knows we love
I catch your eyes in the dark
One look relives the memory
Remember me
The way I used to be
(Smith, 1980)

And then later in the set I, and all those around me, sang at the top of our voices another set of lyrics I have made my own story to for the last twenty years:

It doesn’t matter if we all die
Ambition in the back of a black car
(Smith, 1982)

I wrote it somewhere else: “As sad as it sounds, it was my brother’s death that helped me appreciate the song ‘One Hundred Years’ to the full. I would get lost in the flanging and distorted guitars and Smith would sing it like it was. The darkness and aggression of the song found its way to my wandering and grieving self. I can imagine that some of you will sneer at the naivety of it all. Yes. You may sneer, laugh and denigrate but if feeling the pain makes me vulnerable in the eye of the mocking person or the hounding pack, then so be it.”

Tonight, the version was deep, dark and majestic, complemented by black and white photographs projected on the screen behind the band. I had never seen The Cure making such a political statement. The images included photographic documents of armed conflicts, genocides, as well as social and cultural critical portrayals. It was dark - very dark.

Tonight at the Royal Albert Hall, it was not about my grieving, my loss or my life. It was about making a political statement too and a kind, humane gesture. It was about the lives of those who have to endure an illness and the realisation that they might die much earlier than they, and their family, would like. And so, tonight, I felt awkward singing ‘It doesn’t matter if we all die’, truth be told. Tonight, as Smith said in an interview for Teenage Cancer Trust, it was about ‘something more’.

So when Neil McCormick writes in The Telegraph, that The Cure have ‘institutionalised a once adventurous approach [… and] have, effectively, turned into a formulaic, Goth rock Status Quo’, please find it in your heart to gracefully allow me to write in capital letters: WTF – for sometimes it takes an institution to move the crowd, physically as well as emotionally, to make a difference. Had it not been for The Cure, I would have stayed home, watching some art house movie or a throw-away comedy but most probably watching video clips of The Cure on Youtube (old habits die hard). Instead, our collective £400 spent on tickets would make a difference.

Neil McCormick may conclude in his review ‘at least it was all in aid of a good cause’, but I would like to offer a different perspective: BECAUSE it was all in aid of a good cause, The Cure played for three and a half hours for two consecutive nights. Because it was in aid of a good cause, I was able to see The Cure live once more and I enjoyed the concert immensely. To me, The Cure have always been an impressive band live - the first time I saw them play in my home town 25 years ago and every subsequent concert. Tonight was no exception. But then again, what do I know? I’m just a hard-core fan…

It's not a case of doing what's right
It's just the way I feel that matters
Tell me I'm wrong
I don't really care
(Smith, 1980)

View my photos of The Cure performing on the night.

Photograph © Aline Giordano 2014