With an air of inevitability, The Cure presided over the Pyramid Stage for the first time since 1995, unleashing a perfect set that will be remembered as the bookend to a legendary career.
It’s a poignant setting for a band that first headlined back in 1986. In their ascendency, the Crawley group seemed fated to become post-punky upstarts or funereal doomsayers. That they emerged as emperors of goth and pop, and now stand as great British eccentrics, is testament to their remarkable vision. Their show on Sunday night illustrates the breadth of feeling that can be experienced in a single human life.
True to type, Robert Smith wanders on-stage at showtime head to toe in black, with panda eyes and crispy seaweed hair. He has appeared before the lights even dim, as if lost on his way back to the cemetery. Fans nudge friends as they spot his ambling figure, preparing to start the show. We laugh before we cry.
Starting with “Plainsong”, the opening section is a transcendent mush largely composed of Disintegration tracks, full of waterfall reverb and basslines that breach an alternate dimension. If Smith once sounded wounded, time has lent him the sinister air of an avenging spirit, ready to reap vengeance through the medium of clingy boyfriend bangers.
It all sounds exquisite. The pitfalls of ageing rock bands never really applied to The Cure, their music a timeless wash and their frontman sounding, even at a sprightly 21, as if he were hovering by death’s door. But at this epic scale, backdropped by a setting Glastonbury sun, they sound otherworldly. The horizon swallows the last sunlight under the Armageddon squall of “Burn”, and it seems inconsequential whether it ever comes up again.
To my right, Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien goes wild in the sort of trilby and overcoat combo usually favoured by 19th-century occultists. Moments of magic come in waves: the deferred ecstasy of “Just Like Heaven”’s “run away with you” chorus, the way “A Forest” conjures a gorgeous dread you could sleep inside, before “Shake Dog Shake” shatters its reverie with diabolical thunder. But it’s in the finale – after Smith has taken “two minutes to put my pop head back on” – that all the pieces click.
“I’ve been here over the weekend,” he says on his return. “It’s just hot and f***ing excellent. It’s just weird to be part of it. What we do on stage is difficult to translate into this. Hang on. It isn’t. The next half-hour is Glastonbury.” If he had his bearings, he might accurately have said: the next half hour is Glastonbury history.
In a climax that sweeps from “Lullaby” to “Friday I’m in Love”, “Close to Me” to “Why Can’t I Be You”, Smith lets loose: vogues and scats during “Close to Me”, hobbles around and scrunches his face. It’s a strange and mesmerising spectacle that reminds us, before we head back to reality, that the world’s greatest glories will always belong to the weirdos.
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