I had to approach this review of The Cure - 40 Live Curaetion 25 + Anniversary Blu-ray Disc edition with a fairly open mind because I haven't kept close tabs on the incarnations of Robert Smith's band The Cure in some time now. I think that the last video I watched was (if I'm not mistaken, their first on Blu-ray) Trilogy. This new 40th anniversary collection features two complete concerts both recorded in London in 2018, both offering a retrospective on the group but with very different approaches.
One concert is indeed the band's 40th Anniversary celebration performance and the other is taken from the final night of the 25th Meltdown Festival, an event which was curated by Cure leader/founder Robert Smith that year. This helps to explain the curiously awkward titlng for this release you see here in this review and on places like Amazon: The Cure - 40 Live Curaetion 25 + Anniversary.
I'll start with anniversary concert which was filmed in the out-of-doors at Hyde Park in London before thousands and thousands of fans (65,000 says the press release but the in the video it looks like much more!). This one sounds especially great; the lighting is beautiful, the cinematography is fabulous as concert videos go and the 48 kHz, 24-bit audio sounds happily quite terrific throughout The Cure - 40 Live Curaetion 25 + Anniversary.
I like how the new band has expanded the group's sound quite a bit, notably with the addition of former David Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels on lead (who has actually been with The Cure since 2012). Gabrels adds a new texture that is simultaneously muscular and delicate, complementing Smith's songs quite perfectly and frankly in a way that I never really appreciated when he was with Bowie. Maybe it's just the relative simplicity of Smith's compositions that allows Gabrels to simply dig in and express himself versus trying to cram in lots of different notes and artful scales in the Bowie universe... Or perhaps I'm just finally really appreciating his playing anew through this video.
I don't know but -- as they say -- it's only rock 'n' roll and I like it!
On both of these Blu-ray discs the only disappointment is that the surround sound mix is not all that compelling as an immersive experience. Don't get me wrong - it sounds very, very good as live concert recordings go and it is certainly a much better experience than listening with just the standard LPCM Stereo soundtrack. The producers tend to keep the band set front and center in a basically stereo mix, only using the rear channels for ambience and occasional crowd noise.
This is most effective on tracks like "A Forest" where the spontaneous -- and remarkably-in-time -- audience's hand claps emerge from the rears. On "Play For Today" the audience also sings along with the signature keyboard riff, transforming the song into more-modern construct, with a near "millennial whoop" flavor to it. Those sounds come from the rears and it's quite fun.
The surround mix on the Meltdown Concert Disc portion of The Cure - 40 Live Curaetion 25 + Anniversary offers a little bit more of an immersive experience, perhaps because it's an indoor venue where (and I'm guessing here, folks) they had more opportunity to play with the ambient reflections of the music in the hall. Thus you'll periodically feel some interesting reverberations of the venue wrapping you up like a comfy-familiar warm blanket.
Both concerts are ultimately terrific but very different listening and viewing experiences given the set lists and performance environments (which makes for interesting contrast if you are into that sort of nuanced comparitive detailing). If you have a subscription, you can hear the Cure's Hyde Park anniversary concert streaming on Tidal and Qobuz in 48 kHz, 24-bit fidelity (click here to jump to Tidal and here for Qobuz). There are also separate streams for the Meltdown 25 Cureation concert as well (click here for Tidal and here for Qobuz).
That said, you can't go wrong with The Cure - 40 Live Curaetion 25 + Anniversary. This is a keepsake collection for both hardcore and casual Cure fans.