It only took about seven minutes before hearts started simultaneously breaking and soaring Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center, where the Cure delivered a long and heavy concert for the ages.
"Remembering you, fallen into my arms / Crying for the death of your heart," the band's makeup-smudged frontman Robert Smith sang ever so miserably and elegantly.
Those potent lines in "Pictures of You" — the second song in the lovelorn British pop-rockers' 2¾-hour performance — sparked the first of many times Smith's misery enjoyed the company of 15,000 fans singing along.
Who could've guessed that a cult-loved '80s band whose music is loaded with downbeat lyrics would wind up with 2023's "hottest rock tour of the summer?" That's how Rolling Stone billed it — a declaration supported by the swiftly sold-out St. Paul concert.
In an era when the dark, nerdy TV show "Stranger Things" turns a 38-year-old Kate Bush song into a No. 1 hit, though, and both Bush and the Cure wind up getting voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — and when the world almost fell apart recently from a pandemic — it makes sense that the mopey, gloomy but hopeful British band could reign as summer stars.
Smith, 64, took the stage wearing a T-shirt from Minnesota's brightest rock icon, Prince. And while he looked like the anti-Prince the way he slowly plodded around the stage, he still captured the crowd at "Hello."
"Pictures of You" followed "Alone," the first of a handful of new, unreleased songs that filled out the 29-song setlist. Since before COVID, the band has been teasing the release of its first record in 15 years. From the sounds of Thursday's selection, it's going to be a strong one.
Best among the new bunch was a dramatic and urgent downer titled "And Nothing Is Forever," played four songs in. Later, the band kicked off the first of two long "encores" — really 30-minute mini-sets — with an especially somber and dreary new one called "I Can Never Say Goodbye," which Smith said was inspired by his brother Richard, who died a few years ago.
The 1987 nugget "A Thousand Hours" was one in a surprisingly long line of deep cuts dropped into the set, each intermingled with fan favorites such as the lilting "Lovesong" and eerie oldie "A Forest." Other rarities included the searing "Burn" (from "The Crow" soundtrack, remember that?!) and "39" (from 2000's "Bloodflowers").
Not once in all that wild setlist maneuvering did the band falter. The modern lineup of the Cure has proven to be the most consistent and powerful in the band's 47-year history, with longtime David Bowie sideman Reeves Gabrels adding a freakier spark on guitar and Jason Cooper pummeling on drums. Meanwhile, low-slinging bassist Simon Gallup — the oldest-tenured member besides Smith — weaved his usual melodic magic, especially in "Push."
Smith seemed to delight in the unpredictability of it all.
"Sometimes you don't get to hear what you want, but sometimes you get to hear things not played elsewhere," he said in a playful snit.
The frontman himself was the most solid asset of the night. It's hard to think of many singers from '80s bands who still sing with all the character and power of their heyday, as he did so impressively Thursday. His voice sounded so exuberantly wrenching in "Prayers for Rain" that the crowd cheered when his vocal part ended.
"Prayers for Rain" was part of a three-song montage of dreary highlights from 1989's "Disintegration" album in the first encore. The bulk of the adoring crowd was visibly captivated through it all. After that heavy wallop came a final encore run of the band's lighter, bubblier hits, including "Friday I'm in Love," "Close to Me," "In Between Days," "Just Like Heaven" and finally "Boys Don't Cry."
Fans ate up all of that fun stuff, too. But on this night, the sadder, heavier and darker material sounded resoundingly best. Credit the band, or blame it on the world at large.