Judge Adam Arseneau doesn't cry.
"Okay, I'm going to kill myself if we have to sit here all night listening to The Cure."—Judge Adam Arseneau's wife, to Judge Adam Arseneau
A trifecta of moody melancholic music, The Cure: Trilogy features everyone's favorite goth boy, Robert Smith, and The Cure performing three of their seminal albums live in their entirety to sellout crowds in Berlin in 2002. Yes, my wife did indeed say that—and she was probably correct in doing so.
With the completion of Bloodflowers in 2000, The Cure had finalized what was to them the third in a thematic set of albums (preceded by Pornography in 1982 and Disintegration in 1989) spanning over ten years. After watching David Bowie perform his albums Low and Heathen in their entirety in concert, front man Robert Smith decided to do the same thing with The Cure. Recorded in chronological and album order over two nights in Berlin, The Cure: Trilogy features the following songs:
The Cure: Trilogy is an ambitious idea, performing three seemingly disparate albums back-to-back, and one that succeeds in creating thematic links between separate creative works. One cannot deny a tonal and narrative harmony that runs through the performance when the albums are played back-to-back, and newcomers to the music would be hard-pressed to tell which songs were written ten years ago, and which were written today. These are serious albums for serious Cure fans; no poppy singles or catchy jingles to be found here, only dark and complex explorations of sulking and wearing eyeliner.
The downside to such a stringent adherence to an inflexible set list is the lack of variety. With each song being so intrinsically and artistically linked across the three albums, this kind of ambitious (and some would argue self-indulgent) arrangement results in a three-hour set of similar-sounding songs. This is great news for fans of The Cure's more challenging, moody, and emotional work, but torturous for those who enjoy songs like "Boys Don't Cry" and "Friday I'm In Love."
Even for occasional fans of The Cure and their music, it is hard to escape the pure droning quality of this concert: the repetitive tempos from song to song, the near-identical jangling guitar intros, the wrist-slitting maudlin lyrics from Smith again and again. While all three albums taken individually are quite excellent, hearing them back-to-back is emotionally and sonically draining, like attending multiple funerals. It's all a bit heavy. Even worse, The Cure are, for all their musical talent, fantastically dull stage performers. The band stands ramrod straight and rooted into position the entire time. When the most exciting moment in your live concert DVD is when you take off the guitar and put your hands dramatically in the air, you know you're in trouble, or asleep.
Visually, the 1080i picture lacks the crisp quality one would expect from a high definition recording; the image is soft and hazy, indistinct and lacking detail, and sequences seem to streak, as if some funny conversion occurred. It looks better than it would on DVD, but not quite as good as recent Blu-Ray concert offerings. The concert (like the music) is moodily lit, with excessive reds and blues lighting up the stage, with solid and overwhelming black levels. When the stage lights properly illuminate Smith and his band mates, the high definition kicks in; sweat glistens and light reflects from chrome instruments smartly, but with it comes a noticeable amount of grain. These moments are few and far between, as the band seems to enjoy lurking amidst the shadows.
As with most Eagle Rock concerts, The Cure: Trilogy sounds better than it looks. Audio offers up a LPCM stereo track, a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and a DTS HD Master Audio track for consumption. The stereo track is crisp and treble-heavy, with strong vocal mixing and clean detail. The similarities between the Dolby 5.1 and the DTS HD are surprisingly uniform; both make excellent use of all five channels, spreading out the intricate guitar jangling riffs and keyboards across the full spectrum. The DTS HD sounds smoother, more polished and less jangly than the Dolby track, with a noticeably more rounded tone, but either would serve the performance very well. Bass response on all three tracks was adequate, but less prominent than expected.
In terms of extras, we get two encore songs ("If Only Tonight We Could Sleep" and "The Kiss"), two alternate angle tracks ("The Same Deep Water As You" and "Plainsong") which amount to little more than somebody bringing a camcorder on stage, and a 40-minute SD interview (with optional subtitles) with the band members discussing their motivations for putting together the three-album set. It's a slim offering of extras, but identical to the standard DVD release.
An ambitious concert sure to appeal to serious Cure fans, The Cure: Trilogy sounds great on Blu-Ray, but the mediocre high-definition transfer and yawn-inducing performance make this one for the devoted, mascara-wearing fans only. Guilty of producing an unexpected reaction in the judge. After sitting through the set, I found myself not wanting to listen to The Cure any more, but instead go do something more cheerful, like hang out in a cemetery or a funeral home.
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