After a 12-year hiatus from the Orpheum Theatre, The Cure returned this past Tuesday evening as the headlining act for WBCN's XMAS Rave. The mood was subdued through both of the opening acts, but once Robert Smith and his mates took the stage, the crowd (who sold out the venue in record time) gelled in collective excitement. Fans for the most part kept their black lipstick and gothic wardrobe at home, but slivers of the famed Cure goth crowd still loomed among the Orpheum's approximately 2,500 seats.
Although coming to Boston in promotion of their recent singles compilation, Galore, the evening's 18-song set represented a broad cross-section of The Cure's history. The uniqueness of playing in a tiny venue like the Orpheum was not lost on the band. Smith laughed and smiled throughout the night, clearly reveling in the crowd's enthusiasm and intimacy. Aside from occasional smoke bursts from the stage and bassist Simon Gallup's running around, the night was not marked by theatrics but rather by the band's tight performance.
During the course of the night, the Cure moved around from poppy hits like "Just Like Heaven" to harder-edged cuts like "Shake Dog Shake" and extended the set to moody guitar-driven songs like "Pictures of You." As the show progressed, the band seemed to get more and more comfortable. Smith threw some silly dances into the mix and the band joked on stage between songs.
The most absurd part of the evening occured when Smith came to the inane spoken voice part of "Wrong Number" and simply laughed it off. Another strange part of the night was that, unlike Smith and Gallup, who were clearly engaging the audience, keyboardist Roger O'Donnell seemed to be in his own world, maintaining a dumb smile on his face as he stood still.
The highlights of the concert came when Smith took out his 12-string acoustic guitar. "Just Like Heaven" from 1987s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me burst with the joyous energy coming from Smith's vocals and bouncy guitar strumming. "The Same Deep Water As You" and "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea" followed and put all of the Cure's talent on display. "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea" was wound up and presented with the beautiful interplay between Gallup's bass guitar and the guitars of Smith and Perry Bamonte. Smith held the song down with delicate guitar picking and clever use of his effects pedal while Bamonte threw in some violently untamed guitar solos. On this song, as he did throughout the night, Gallup alternated perfectly between powerful riffs and steady subdued bass lines.
At the beginning of the encore, Smith apologized for the short length of the set (as a result of having two opening-acts to suck away time) and gave the audience two tracks that went way back into the Cure's infancy. "10:15 Saturday Night" and "Killing and Arab" reached back to 1979 and ended a triumphant night for the Cure. Although the band's popularity has waned from their 80s heyday, the Cure proved that their musical prowess has not.