“Sorry I’m not talking much, but it’s for the best,” Robert Smith— sporting a black outfit, black guitar, customary goth-fro hair—quipped near the end of The Cure’s nearly three-hour show at the 17,000-capacity Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on Friday.
“I’m trying to be mysterious,” he said.
Perhaps never in popular music has there been a band as simultaneously dark and romantic as The Cure—like if Leonard Cohen had written songs for David Bowie during the latter’s most radio-friendly days—and Amsterdam is a wonderful fit for that harmonic dreamscape. Instead of entrance music or even a mix of tunes for the sellout audience to talk over as they waited, The Cure simply played the sound of rain, which hits the Dutch capital virtually every day in the fall and winter.
The English group took the stage at 8:15 p.m. and Smith, 63, wandered the platform acknowledging fans as his five-piece band tore through the haunting “Alone” from its upcoming album Songs of a Lost World. “Alone”, in particular, sounded like it wouldn’t have been out of place on The Cure’s 1989 masterpiece, Disintegration—cinematic, patient, lush.
As a floating version of “Pictures of You” created a sort of gothic rapture, the soccer-hooligan atmosphere outside the arena and all over town disappeared suddenly and the best parts of the ‘80s emerged.
Smith may be 63, but in Amsterdam his voice sounded like it hadn’t aged a day, and perhaps even improved, since The Cure formed in 1978. Sure, the Ziggo Dome—less hockey arena or even “dome” than a big box made for big concerts—has gigantic, world-class sound but Smith has a way of projecting his voice that makes it seem like his entire body is singing.
Even as the marathon show seemed near a close and Smith repeatedly punched his guitar like the Misfits’ Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein and repeated “How the end always is” louder and louder, the sense of putting his full being into projecting his voice only became stronger.
And it turned out the Cure had another encore in its back pocket, with seven more songs in it, including the fitting “Friday I’m In Love” (“Are we playing this on the right day?” Smith joked) and show-closing crowd-pleaser “Just Like Heaven”.
Smith’s longest-serving bandmate, bassist Simon Gallup, prowled the stage with the Doctor Who reference “Bad Wolf” taped across his amp. It could be argued that Gallup’s at-once skeletal and dreamy bass sound is as important to The Cure’s identity as Smith’s voice, and it filled the Ziggo Dome on Friday night as he gelled with longtime Bowie lead guitarist Reeves Gabrels, whose usual jaw-dropping shreds were restrained as he contributed to The Cure’s majestic soundscapes.
“Prayer for Rain” and “The Walk” (“take me for a walk / let’s go in the water”) hinted at Amsterdam’s drizzly vibe, and the reverential crowd’s impassioned claps as Smith sang “again and again” over and over to close “A Forest” reminded me I was in the heart of Europe.
“They’re better than Americans at hand claps,” my showmate (my 12-year-old kid) turned to me and said, “They can clap in time.”
Did The Cure please everyone Friday night? Well, my preteen—straining to get glimpses of Robert Smith as we stood on the floor amid tens of thousands of notoriously tall Dutch beneath The Cure’s mesmerizing light show—went away happy, having crossed the Atlantic for the first time and not been sent home to Colorado without a “Boys Don’t Cry”.
Personally, I left surprised at how important Smith’s guitarwork is. When he takes leads and you can see him doing it, you realize his seemingly unremarkable guitar playing has an iconic, profound character no one on Earth could replicate.
I also left Ziggo Dome for the crisp Amsterdam air laughing, remembering my kid’s one comment about Jason Cooper’s drumming, having seen me play the drums at hundreds of shows since birth.
“You could do that but you wouldn’t look as cool. Well, maybe if you got some hairspray.”
Check out a collection of fan-shot videos of The Cure in Amsterdam from Karin & Tommy.
The Cure – “A Forest” – 11/25/22
The Cure – “Lullaby” – 11/25/22
The Cure – “Friday I’m In Love” – 11/25/22
The Cure – “Just Like Heaven” – 11/25/22
The Cure – “Boys Don’t Cry” – 11/25/22
Setlist: The Cure | Ziggo Dome | Amsterdam, Netherlands | 11/25/22
Set: Alone, Pictures of You, A Night Like This, Lovesong, And Nothing Is Forever, Trust, A Fragile Thing, Burn, The Figurehead, At Night, A Strange Day, Push, Play for Today, A Forest, Shake Dog Shake, From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea, Endsong
Encore: I Can Never Say Goodbye, Plainsong, Prayers for Rain, Disintegration
Encore Two: Lullaby, The Walk, Friday I’m in Love, Close to Me, In Between Days, Just Like Heaven, Boys Don’t Cry