The Cure, Move festival, Old Trafford, Manchester

A perfect cure for nostalgia
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The Independent Culture

Despite the concern of men in blazers, Old Trafford cricket ground was a well-judged place for The Cure's only (as yet) UK date in support of their current, eponymous album. You may equate the city with unbridled hedonism à la Happy Mondays and Oasis, but rain-swept Manchester still carries a torch for the kings of misery pop.

Despite the concern of men in blazers, Old Trafford cricket ground was a well-judged place for The Cure's only (as yet) UK date in support of their current, eponymous album. You may equate the city with unbridled hedonism à la Happy Mondays and Oasis, but rain-swept Manchester still carries a torch for the kings of misery pop.

In a year of comebacks, The Cure have been overshadowed by the Move mini-festival's other big draws. The return of the Pixies was hailed as a second coming, while that local hero Morrissey turned up with a decent album. Meanwhile, The Cure's first new material in four years has received praise for its raw feel, with the caveat that it adds little to their canon.

If the band's name has been on people's lips, it has more often been down to a slew of newcomers inspired by their sound. Currently, Las Vegas's The Killers hold the laurels for emoting in an overwrought fashion, though later this month The Cure set out on a tour of the US, where they are more fêted, with hand-picked supports from the icy synths of Interpol and The Rapture's strangulated vocals. However, such fashionable acts held no sway over Friday's audience, many of whom mirrored Robert Smith's paunch, if not his Edward Scissorhands hair, panda eyes and smudged lipstick.

As the four-piece band introduced the funereal swirls of "Plainsong", Smith went from one side of the stage to the other with hunched shoulders, as though he was letting the group command the stage, though there was a sense that he was inspecting his people.

Smith then let rip with a sulky voice that took much of the crowd back to the late Eighties, the time of their most compelling work, "Disintegration". All that was missing was a low, grey sky to accompany his mood. Instead, the cricket ground most connected to the phrase "Rain stopped play" boasted swathes of blue.

Also gone Awol was the sound, as the first five numbers floated away to join the little fluffy clouds. This did no favours to an early showing for two tracks from The Cure album, the arabesque "Labyrinth" and the wistful "Before Three". As the soundman found clarity, the band turned from their tentative opening numbers to a tranche of joyous pop, as the much-loved "Love Song", "Without You" and "Just Like Heaven" followed in quick succession. Not quite household names, but you can forget how many tunes you know from indie discos, if not the radio.

The regretful musing of the new single "The End of the World" fitted in well around this point, while later on, a racked "Never", from the same album, nestled comfortably next to the urgently driven drums of "100 Years". It showed the balance on this year's album that recent efforts have lacked, though other tracks fared less well, as the snarling "Us and Them" came out uncertain and Smith failed to capture the resentful spite of "The Promise".

Those were their only lapses as the band treated us to obscure early numbers and the hits. "Love Cats" was kept out, but an encore of "A Forest" and "Boys Don't Cry" just about satisfied the fans.

An early curfew in up-and-coming Trafford curtailed their set, but The Cure had earned the top-up to their pension plan, and the right to more recognition in this country.

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