It was 30 years ago today: On Aug. 20, 1989, The Cure launched the U.S. leg of the “Prayer” tour behind their phenomenal Disintegration album. Since everyone loves an anniversary, here’s a set of photographs I took on the day, which I’ve previously only shared with a few friends.
On the day, I drove down with two friends from Connecticut to Giants Stadium, a former sports arena located in East Rutherford, New Jersey, in the Meadowlands, having procured general admission tickets for the ground level for my friends and I. Marianne drove; I had gotten my license but wasn’t yet comfortable (or allowed?) to drive across state lines or at least roundabout greater New York City.
Streaming onto the football field — general admission territory — we made it to within maybe 50 feet of the stage. It was a sweltering summer day, and staff fired a water hose over us at multiple intervals. Shelleyan Orphan opened, followed by Love and Rockets, followed by the Pixies. I remember the Pixies, who I love, didn’t quite seem to fill the stadium. As if the sound system and setup were optimized for someone else.
As dusk fell, smoke filled the stage to the sound of wind chimes and The Cure’s “Plainsong.” Writing about it even 30 years later gives me chills, as does seeing The Cure perform live this year, via YouTube, at the Sydney Opera House and later at Glastonbury.
Performing at the Meadowlands, they were immense, capturing the “emotional intensity and depth” — to quote Q’s August 2019 feature on Disintegration’s 30th anniversary — that the record had achieved, yet also live. The Cure’s set, including two encores, ran for close to 3 hours (if I remember correctly), never flagging in intensity. The stadium was rapt, in a frenzy, delirious at their presence. The show remains one of the best I’ve ever attended.
Five Imaginary Boys
Thirty years later, I’m struck by how the wonderfully lit stage so often echoed the hues of the group’s album covers, including the screaming red of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, the group’s seventh album. Most of my photographs feature frontman and singer Robert Smith, who was front and center, with keyboardist Roger O’Donnell a haunted-looking presence directly behind. Capturing bassist Simon Gallup was more difficult, though I have a great photograph of him — more of a silhouette, wearing a big, round hat — that I have yet to relocate. And only grainy photos of guitarist Porl Thompson, and little of drummer Boris Williams, who was largely outside my sight line.
For me, Disintegration represents the group’s apotheosis, for reasons not just of musicality but also the time and place of its debut, in my teenage years, pursuing every bit of Cure music that I could find, mixed with the relative shift into maturity and gravitas — but still, so much fun — that Robert Smith and company managed to achieve on the album.
I still remember the smell of the plastic wrapper on the cassette as I snapped it off and slid the tape into my Hyundai’s car stereo, and the first chimes of Plainsong as I read the accordion-folded liner notes, obeying the order therein:
“THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP.”
Thanks to The Cure Concerts Guide for the ticket, poster and set list.