The Cure’s three-hour set was a Splendour moment like no other

Photo by Kylie Keene/FasterLouder

Conventional wisdom around pop songwriting is that you should get to the vocals within seconds, pile on the hooks, and finish it off with a sudden ending. It’s something to be mindful of when thinking about The Cure, a unique band within the broader world of music let alone the relatively small club of bands who can hold down a Splendour headline set.

After all, has anyone been given a three-hour set at Splendour before? In some ways it’s a ballsy move, allocating so much prime real estate to one band – especially a group who don’t always create celebratory, universal moments. Their set was packed with immediate hits (and they have a lot), but they were also contextualised by deeper cuts that were more drawn out and often took their time building. Even as a fan, at times during the set, you could picture it being challenging for those walking in who are less familiar with the band.

The Cure
Photo by Kylie Keene/FasterLouder

That’s not a detriment though – in fact, that breadth is the show’s strength, and made the length of their set not only warranted, but important. After all, The Cure have thirteen studio records, and their career has swung between quite different moods – from the slow-burn longing of set openers ‘Plainsong’ and ‘Pictures Of You’, to aggressive rockers like ‘Shake Dog Shake’, to the lean new-wave of closer ‘Boys Don’t Cry’.

“It’s hard to think of many bands that could’ve headlined with a set like this.”

It’s all amazing material, and every Cure fan will give you a different favourite. So a set that can cover all bases, and do so in a way that feels so coherent and comprehensive, is a fan’s delight. And regardless of the era, they played it wonderfully – Robert Smith, 40 years into the band’s career, was animated and in wonderful voice, while the rest of his bandmates brought into focus just how perfectly constructed each Cure song is – much like the band itself, each instrument interlocks to create a lean, but intricate whole.

The set ebbed and flowed, building stakes throughout, to the point where conspicuously new moods (the guitar solo in ‘The End Of The World’, the sheer pop of ‘In Between Days’) felt more like a release and an escalation than anything else.

Of course, this was a festival set, and it wasn’t just for the enthusiasts. Their catalogue is as hit-filled as it is deep, and the set was full of four-minute bursts of pure pop joy. While their main set was a more slow-building affair, it was punctuated often by tracks like ‘Just Like Heaven’ and ‘Friday I’m In Love’. And the momentum continued into the encores, which were filled with universal tracks like ‘Close To Me’, ‘Let’s Go To Bed’ and ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’.

It’s hard to think of many bands that could’ve headlined with a set like this – long, sprawling, switching styles, and somehow keeping a cohesive whole that snowballed, over almost three hours, into a big celebratory festival set. It may have been new territory for Splendour, but it paid off with one of the festival’s most memorable headline sets.

The Cure @ Splendour In The Grass, 24/07/2106

‘Pictures of You’
‘A Night Like This’
‘Sleep When I’m Dead’
‘In Between Days’
‘Friday I’m in Love’
‘The End of the World’
‘Just Like Heaven’
‘From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea’
‘The Hungry Ghost’

‘Shake Dog Shake’
‘A Forest’

Encore 2:
‘Fascination Street’
‘Never Enough’
‘Wrong Number’

Encore 3:
‘The Caterpillar’
‘The Walk’
‘Close to Me’

Encore 4:
‘Hot Hot Hot!!!’
‘Let’s Go to Bed
‘Why Can’t I Be You?
‘Boys Don’t Cry