on 17 November 2002
If you've been to a Cure concert, you will know that they are a stunning live band. Capturing the atmosphere and the adrenalin of their shows on CD is well-nigh impossible, but nonetheless "Show" is an appealing reminder to those who have been there, and a damn good taster for those who haven't. Many of the songs also sound better than the studio versions on the recent "Greatest Hits" collection, as if you needed an extra reason to buy this.
The Cure's repertoire ranges from pop gems to dark, less accessible tracks appreciated mostly by confirmed fans, and while "Paris" (another live album released around the same time) concentrates on the latter, "Show" has enough of the pop to give it a wider appeal. It also came at a time when most of the band's best live tracks had already been written: while in my view "Bloodflowers" is their best studio album, none of its tracks or those on "Wild Mood Swings" are concert highlights.
The only problem with this is that "Show" will delight neither die-hard fans, who will criticize the inclusion of too many poppy tracks and mourn the absence of "A Forest" and "Play For Today", nor "casual" listeners who, like the Amazon reviewer, mourn the absence of "The Lovecats" and "Close To Me" and question the inclusion of less accessible tracks. All I can say is that Cure music is neither Lovecats nor Forest: it is both, and everything inbetween, and Show does a pretty good job of mixing these extremes and giving a taste of the full Cure range.
So, what is in this "showcase"? There are plenty of tracks from their most recent (at the time) studio album, "Wish". The pop tracks "High", "Friday I'm In Love" and "Doing The Unstuck" are perfectly good, yet quite forgettable compared to strong versions of pop classics "Just Like Heaven", "Inbetween Days" and "Lullaby". However, "Wish" is not all pop: the slow despairing "Trust" makes a welcome appearance, and the inclusion of "From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea" - still a high point of any Cure gig - makes Show worth it for the sheer power of that one track alone.
Fans of the more intense Cure style will appreciate a loud and rocking "Fascination Street", while two more Wish tracks, "Open" and "End", provide some power at both ends of the album. "Never Enough" is a great version - I don't like the single version much, but this starts with a great guitar intro and does a good job of lightening the tone after "Deep Green Sea". If there's one song that should unite all fans in appreciation, though, it has to be a near-perfect rendition of "Pictures Of You", which is the high point of the first CD.
That leaves a few tracks which, while better than the studio versions, don't quite reach the heights of the rest: "A Night Like This", "Let's Go To Bed" and "The Walk". Add these to "High", "Friday I'm In Love" and "Doing The Unstuck" and for me you have six weaker tracks - none however needs skipping. You can't have an album full of masterpieces, just like you can't have an action movie with explosions in every scene: every song contributes to the whole, and the high points are all the better for the atmosphere-building between them.
How can Cure come up with a 2-CD live album without concert classics like "A Forest", "Killing An Arab", "Play For Today", "Shiver and Shake" and hits like "Close To Me", "Boys Don't Cry", "Lovesong" and (yes) "Lovecats"? Simply because they have such a huge repertoire, and so much of it is good live. If you are a big fan, buy "Show" and "Paris"; otherwise just get "Show" and play it loud. If you're not a fan, then maybe, like me, you'll listen to "Show" and learn to like the band, and then buy other Cure albums.
Perhaps one day Bob and the boys will release a new live CD - the 2002 Hyde Park concert for example? - but until then, nearly ten years on, "Show" is the best reminder I can get of their concert power, and remains a firm favourite. Highly recommended.