Fittingly, Hendrix’s “Foxey Lady” was included — this time sung by Smith instead of original band member Michael Dempsey — as an axe-wielding cover version that tipped its black hat to the dearly departed Jimi. As far as I'm concerned, along with Prince, "Fat Bob" (as a bitter Siouxsie Sioux supposedly coined him) is the world’s most underrated guitarist. On the harmonica, however, as demonstrated by the still tense “Subway Song,” Mr. Smith showed he's no Bob Dylan.
After a mere 30 minutes (not taking into account the time to flip the vinyl), the set on the first night concluded with the album’s atmospheric title track (on the second night, it concluded with throwaway track “The Weedy Burton,” as the album does, because diehards demanded it for “accuracy” purposes).
Admittedly, Three Imaginary Boys was a hodgepodge of a debut, and the set seemed truncated (I'd forgotten how short albums used to be). However, it served its purpose as the foundation and context for the next two albums/sets. Despite the "drip drip dripping" kitchen sink that Three Imaginary Boys often is, “Another Day,” along with fan favourite “Fire in Cairo” and opener “10:15 Saturday Night,” all served as a rough prequel for what was to come.
Flash forward a year to Seventeen Seconds.
After a brief intermission, we were transported a year forward for 1980’s Seventeen Seconds. On again/off again band member Simon O’Donnell (1987-1991, 1995-2005) joined the three not-so-imaginary boys on stage, along with original keyboardist Matthieu Hartley. Immediately, as they launched into “A Reflection,” the quantum progression heard in the band’s sound was visceral and profound.
The maturation in songwriting that occurred in the year between Cure albums is staggering. Now there is a previously missing lushness in the material. Notes that were once buzz-saw and choppy now are decanted, allowing room for them to breathe and grow. The band discovered the flanger, so waves of sound could now sustain themselves seemingly forever.
Thematically and textually, there are evolutions and revolutions evident in Seventeen Seconds as well. Longstanding encore fodder “Play for Today” initially seemed out of place so early in the set; however, its enduring and endearing sing-a-long (with its keyboard riff) revealed an audience engagement with the song deeper than seen in previous shows.
This rapture reappeared in full force with the opening notes of “A Forest,” a whirling and blinding six minutes of tonal transcendence, which also was forgiven for appearing mid-set instead of in its usual encore position. “At Night” pulsated with its brooding and driving bassline, and “M” ensnared with its hooks and progressions. However, in between, the perennially underrated “In Your House” was captivating and sublime with its understated hooks and nuances. It was an unexpected highlight in a night full of them.