Oh, boy. As a dyed-in-the-black Cure fan, the new DVD release of Festival 2005 has me torn. On the one hand, there are plenty of reasons to like this set collected from their nine European festival appearances, not the least of which is a 30-song selection that digs deep into the back catalog. Spanning cuts from 10 of their 14 studio albums, the set list leans heavily on the band’s gloomier work from the beginning of the ‘80s—Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography are all well-represented. Songs like Seventeen Second‘s “M”, Pornography‘s “The Figurehead”, The Head on the Door‘s “The Baby Screams” and “The Blood”, and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me‘s “Shiver and Shake” all make welcomed appearances.
The lineup that pulls from every era of the ever-changing band is also a bright spot. In 2005, mainstay Robert Smith fired keyboardist Roger O’Donnell and guitarist Perry Bamonte after 10 year’s of service. Smith, bassist Simon Gallup, and drummer Jason Cooper then welcome guitarist Porl Thompson back into the fold after a 10-year absence. Noticeably missing, though, are the keyboards that have been a hallmark of the Cure sound since 1979. This approach renders some songs with new life in this live setting, most notably “The Kiss” and “Shake Dog Shake”. The remaining strengths of the DVD are its DTS 5.1 audio mix and its over two-and-a-half-hour of music.
On the other hand, there are problems, and believe me, they are some doozies. First up is the visual presentation—the video quality, video editing, and video effects are all atrocious. None of the warnings or write-ups or fan reviews can prepare you for the garbage found here. The film, culled from footage “captured by a mix of fans, crew and ‘on-the-night-big-screen cameras,’” is embarrassing at best. I didn’t think the epileptic-fit-inducing editing of the Pornography set on the Cure’s Trilogy DVD could be surpassed, yet editor Daren Butler and Fat Bob himself seem to have found a way to best that high watermark. And then there are the effects… Remember those old Black Sabbath and Jefferson Airplane videos? Yeah, you’re somewhere in the ballpark now.
Another puzzling side of the whole affair is the aspect ratio. It is presented in 4:3 full screen, yet the back of the box instructs the viewer that the contents are “best viewed as widescreen!” If it is best viewed in widescreen, and the band knows it, and the fans know it, and the audio-videophiles know it, why not just present the damn thing in anamorphic widescreen? This would also be a good place to talk about the DVD extras. Of course, there are none, so this might be a somewhat slight section.
The final issue to take with the set is the noticeably missing keyboards that have been a hallmark of the Cure sound since 1979. (Sound familiar?) This approach renders some songs impotent. “Play for Today” from the seven-song encore provides the most glaring example of the deficiency: The crowd is forced to sing the keyboard sections (I’m not kidding). In other instances, like on “A Night Like This”, “In Between Days”, and “Just Like Heaven”, the keyboardless band ends up sounding like a somewhat competent Cure cover band.
The only conscionable way to recommend this single-disc offering is to suggest you put the Festival 2005 DVD on, crank your receiver, turn off your TV, and enjoy the audio.