Largo -- According to the conventional wisdom, the Cure is an ingeniously gloomy outfit, capable of conveying the dizzying vortex of adolescent depression better than any band in rock. And though the group has had its moments of pop accessibility, they're seen as happy accidents, tuneful anomalies within a generally downbeat catalog.
But as the Cure made clear at the Capital Centre last night, the conventional wisdom is crap. Sure, this quintet has its moments of darkness and despair, but that's just one of the moods in its musical repertoire. Nor is there anything accidental about the band's pop appeal, for no matter how oblique frontman Robert Smith's lyrics might be, there's nothing hard to grasp about the hooks he's worked into songs like "The Walk," "Why Can't I Be You?" or "Friday I'm in Love."
Indeed, there was one stretch in the Cure's two-hour show that seemed a non-stop string of hit singles (although, to be honest, most only made their mark on the alternative charts). Certainly, the crowd treated them as such, bopping happily to the likes of "In Between Days" and "Let's Go to Bed."
Smith, though, wasn't easily seduced by this show of enthusiasm. "We've not decided whether you're an audience that likes pop, or an audience that likes the other stuff," he told the crowd before the first encore. "I think you like both."
And that was precisely what the band gave them: a range of material that stretched from the mopey atmospherics of "Wendy Time," to the thrumming uplift of "Doing the Unstuck" to the feedback-singed majesty of "Cut." Granted, the band's efforts didn't always pay off; a break-up song called "Apart," for example, managed to seem depressing without the promise of resolution or catharsis. But the Cure's success ratio was astonishing, given the emotional sweep of its songbook.
It would have been easy to have tumbled into complete, droning desperation, a point driven home by the Cranes, who opened the show with a set of songs that at best suggested the work of cranky six-year-olds. If you've ever wondered what it would have sounded like had the Velvet Underground been fronted by a Betsy-Wetsy doll, this is the band for you.
Fortunately, the Cure was too grown up for that. In fact, it has even grown since its last appearance at the Capital Centre, adding new breadth to its instrumental attack. That's not to say that the Cure had somehow transformed themselves into a jam band; apart from guitarist Porl Thompson's skittering lead on "Friday I'm in Love," there was little soloing as such. But the instrumental interplay was impressive nonetheless, lending a fevered intensity to everything from "Fascination Street" to the set-closing "End."