On their current tour, The Cure are playing a new song called “It Can Never Be the Same.” It’s about intense romantic longing -- familiar territory for these emotionally forthcoming post-punk legends -- but the title also applies to the challenge facing frontman Robert Smith every time he lipsticks up and hits the stage. As a veteran rock band, how do you recreate the experience of what it was like to see you back in the day, before nostalgia became an engine of your appeal?
It’s a question facing two other era-defining British groups now back in action: The Stone Roses and Radiohead. All three acts are in unique positions -- now that they’re years beyond their most beloved work, each act is tasked with somehow approximating the spark that once made them so pivotal.
The Cure have a great strategy for this. Since launching the North American leg of their global trek on May 10, they’ve injected their sets with more than 70 different songs. In addition to “It Can Never Be the Same” and another new one titled “Step Into the Light,” the group has kept fans guessing with songs from throughout its 37-year career. These include spiky early cuts like “Primary,” seldom-heard gloomy sparklers from 1987’s Disintegration (“Closedown,” “Last Dance”), and even a bunch of tunes from their better-than-you-remember recent albums The Cure (2004) and 4:13 Dream (2008). “Screw,” a fuzzy, funky favorite from 1985’s The Head on the Door, is back in the fold for the first time in 30 years.
It can’t possibly be the same as seeing The Cure on their 1982 Pornography tour -- when they were a dark, dagger-sharp goth-rock trio -- or even catching them in 2000. But this latest go-round is a chance to party with every iteration of the iconic band at once -- with a lineup that’s game for doing four encores a night. People who live and die by Smith’s music aren’t looking for a greatest-hits show, and they needn’t worry about getting one.