PopMatters' Nick Gunn joins a mere 150 others for a semi-secret set that sees the Cure stretch their soundcheck into an intimate, hour-long experience.
There’s a tendency among my friends and I to approach MySpace with a certain amount of cynicism. After all, to the casual onlooker, the whole phenomenon seems to be founded on narcissism: MySpacians build little shrines to themselves, offer up the minutiae of their daily life as an unwanted sacrifice, and then invite people and bands that they’ll never meet to be their closest “friends”. Of course, nothing is ever that black and white. The massive social networking site is also the reason I found myself ditching work to line up outside an inner-city record store early one cold Thursday morning in the hope of scoring some of the scraps falling from the MySpace table. Who am I to turn up my nose at the opportunity to see iconic gothsters the Cure for free? Fast-forward 24 hours, and there we were: 150 complete strangers brought together by cyber-savvy and geographical convenience, waiting for two hours outside the monstrous Entertainment Centre for what we’d been told would be the sound-check for the Cure’s full show later that night. I don’t think anyone knew quite what to expect, so when we were shepherded past the photographers taking the obligatory publicity shots, there was a sense of being led into the chocolate factory by some over-bubbly PR oompa-loompas. Willy Wonka didn’t greet us as we walked into the darkened hall, but the experience wasn’t that far off the mark. It was surreal walking in to find Robert Smith chatting casually on-stage about how he felt using the sound-check rehearsal as a secret gig was “stretching the concept.” I mean, this was Robert Smith -- complete with crazy hair and make-up. This is the guy who saved the world from Mecha-Streisand! (Oh, for the early days of South Park.) Once we were all huddled at the front of the huge concert hall, Smith told the crowd that we were to be treated to a rarities set featuring material that would not be seen in the full three-hour concert later that evening. With that, the band tore into a soaring rendition of Disintegration classic “Plainsong”. A massive lighting rig washed the small crowd with a sky-ful of twinkling stars, which, combined with the power of the music, made us feel like we were standing at the edge of an emerging galaxy. Throughout the hour-long show, er, soundcheck, Smith’s banter switched freely between the dryly engaging and shyly coy. A couple standing next to me cooed about how endearing this shyness was, as though they were the proud parents of an awkward child prodigy. Smith continually apologised for the cheek of treating a rehearsal as a show, but it wasn’t exactly necessary: with some 20 years behind it, this band could play without ever rehearsing again. The performance was polished to the point where it was indistinguishable from the real thing. It might even have been better; as Smith himself pointed out by way of excuse, we were being treated to “an insight few people get.” After trotting out classics like “How Pretty You Are” (which Smith claimed he hadn’t performed live in over 20 years) and closing with “Just Like Heaven”, we were waved off apologetically. “I’ve got to perform for three hours in about forty minutes,” he said by way of another apology. I walked out into the early evening, past the jeering faces of hundreds of pissed-off-looking Goths queued for the show proper. I had never been so thankful that someone had forced me to set up a MySpace page. Like everyone else I know, I had been leaning towards the sleeker, higher-tech, and higher-brow FaceBook, but now I think I’ll hang out more with its slightly ragged-looking older sister -- at least as long as there are tickets for the taking.