The Music Sleuth: The Cure – Anniversary 1978-2018 Live in Hyde Park London (2019) Reviewed

Although there is nothing quite as transcendent as seeing The Cure perform live. But The Cure in Orange director Tim Pope’s concert film of their fortieth anniversary show in London’s Hyde Park last July captures the spirit of their performances with the intimate understanding that a Cure concert is an event to be treasured for what it is – there is minimal preemption, and the moment the music starts, it is clear that this veteran band holds the keys to its own world in its pocket. Stylistically straightforwardly – and lovingly – shot, this is the Cure up close, an intimate awareness of the unquestionable relevance of their music permeating its candor. This is a music-lover’s concert film, eschewing the idea of a narrative to let the songs speak for themselves; focusing equally on each of the band members and allowing the natural shifts in mood between tracks tell its own winding story. There are no extraneous side-dishes – instead, Pope chooses to bite deeply into the meat and marrow of this iconic band to create a film that is as close as one can get without actually having been in the crowd that night.

Frontman Robert Smith, beneath his unruly mop of greying hair, with kohl-darkened eyes and his signature slapdash slash of askew bright red lipstick, has an onstage demeanor that is almost shy, with a gentle humor that shines as he rolls through a carefully constructed setlist spanning his band’s expansive canon. The film includes the entire twenty-nine song set, beginning (as the now thirty-year-old magnum opus, Disintegration, does) with the sweeping, desolately mellifluous “Plainsong”. Almost shimmering in the shadowy twilight sun-stream, Smith’s voice echoing strongly out across an ocean of fans, this will be a night to remember for each and every one of them. Joined by his bandmates, Simon Gallup (bass), Roger O’Donnell (keyboards), Reeves Gabrels (guitar) and Jason Cooper (drums), Robert Smith looks like a man gearing up to make more memories.

The material may be a bit longer in the tooth these days, but the beauty of otherness remains the heart of these anthems of goth rock, the history of darkwave, post-punk, and goth subculture woven into a swerving tapestry of everything the Cure has been and will continue to be. As unassuming as Robert Smith is onstage, he is absolutely having the time of his life – and it’s obvious that he’s pleased as punch to be doing this, forty years after the Cure began life. Pope’s film captures the depth of this band’s legacy, just in presenting it as it is.

There are not very many shots of the fans’ individual reactions to the music, however, which is an unfortunate weakness in a film like this one. While focus on the performance is important, what has always made the Cure special to so many people has been in its trove of honesty and vulnerability, reaching out and clinging to a world so seemingly devoid of sincerity while celebrating the kind of connection music like theirs can so succinctly and adeptly espouse. The crowd here is a vast sea of people, some with phones held aloft, and unless their clapping and cheering and singing along is piped in alongside the sounds from the stage, it’s easy to forget that they’re a part of the spectacle, too.

While the verve of Anniversary doesn’t quite match The Cure in Orange, it definitely caters to those who are interested in living – or reliving – the live experience, these decades of music spanning the emotional rainbow from ecstasy to despair and all hues in between. From the hellish red flames of “Burn”, to the neon carnival ride of “Fascination Street” and the effervescence and slippery nightmare logic in the crawly “Lullaby”, the Cure’s set is enhanced with some fantastic animated graphics displayed behind them, interacting with them as they play. Wish-era hearts cavort across the back-screen as Robert Smith admits that “it’s the wrong day” for “Friday I’m in Love”…..”but who cares?!”

Whether it is their earnest melancholy or their sweetly off-kilter joy that brings us to the music of the Cure, Anniversary is a close second to actually being in an audience for a live set. There are no theatrics or editorial trickery; this film is all about watching the band play, immersing oneself into their hugely influential catalog, and fully looking forward to all that the Cure will have in store for its next album release this autumn.

Trafalgar Releasing presents The Cure – Anniversary 1978-2018 Live in Hyde Park London, screening in theaters for one day only, Thursday, July 11. To find local screenings and purchase tickets, please visit

- Dana Culling