Well, no. It was not.
As you can expect with events in the Sportpaleis, it was incredibly crowded. There was also an event in the nearby Lotto Arena, pretty much doubling the amount of people on the streets. But, it wasn't our first time in the mega-venue so we knew what to do: stand in line and wait until we could walk fifteen centimeters closer to the entrance. Eventually, after being scanned for weapons and explosives, we were allowed in and the search for our seat could begin. We passed the merchandise booth, took a quick look, saw that a t-shirt was priced 35 euros and decided to order a t-shirt online somewhere. You know, fuck capitalism and that kind of shit. Of course, everything in Sportpaleis (a beer: €3.00) is extremely expensive, so I don't even blame The Cure for those ridiculous prices.
The Twilight Sad had the opportunity to support Robert Smith and co, and from what I heard, they did alright. The two songs I heard reminded me of a gloomy, and thus better, version of Coldplay. After they thanked the audience and wished us a good time watching The Cure, The Twilight Said went off stage to a modest and friendly applause. The lights went back on and we crawled to our little chairs on row 243. There I had a decent view over the people who were new wavers or goths in their younger years and I could see that the years of wearing black and purple make-up didn't benefit the way they looked now. Some were already complaining about the babysit while others had a -oh surprise- horrible experience parking their car somewhere nearby. Some of the younger people in attendance were eating nachos and cheese dip and others were waving at someone on the other side of the venue. In that, it wasn't much different from any event in the Sportpaleis, I guess, just 20.000 people of which 18.000 were glued to their smartphones on their very first concert of the year.
Anyway, all of that is not why this was not the concert of the year. After all, the concert hadn't even begun yet. We looked around the massive venue, agreed that that was one impressive p.a. in the middle. Our friend Stephan showed us his seat for the upcoming Depeche Mode concert and someone else suddenly felt an urge to go buy popcorn. Two eighties leftovers found each other and engaged in a hilarious conversation about how everything was better back in the days. The light-banner told us to do the wave, nobody did. It tried again later, and again, and again, and again, and again... But nobody was here to wave, we were here to NEW-wave. Haha.
When Robert and company climbed on stage and the lights went out, you could feel the collective expectation. "Finally, The Cure", someone yelled. That could have been me. They kicked off with 'Shake, Dog, Shake' and immediately took us on a journey through their greatest hits. Three songs in, and this was a stunning concert, if it weren't for the horrible tin-can sound which the Sportpaleis is famous for. Those people at that impressive p.a. pointed towards screens, as if they were doing something useful, but I think they were just hired to point at some screens and look useful. The sound of the guitars pierced my eardrums, the drums were often barely audible, the bass guitar sounded dry as sandpaper and hey, look, keyboards. And as we're used by now in this venue, they compensated those flaws by pumping up the volume to a painful level.
Smith and co didn't seem to mind. They played hit after hit and favorite after favorite. Suddenly, someone yelled "play 'Lullaby", as if the band completely forgot about that song. Personally, I was surprised that 'Pictures Of You' appeared so early in the setlist. This one was a first highlight of the gig. It's my all time favorite Cure song and the way they played it made me forget about the terrible sound for a while. I was able to enjoy it to the fullest, complete with a little tear and some goosebumps. The other highlights include a stunning version of 'A Forest', the notion of how much 'Close To Me' can rock in a live setting and even 'Friday, I'm In Love', a song I don't even like that much.
That being said, the show actually got better and better. The encores were fingerlicking good, 'Boys Don't Cry' electrified the venue and 'Lullaby' turned many women into teenage screaming machines again, something 'Friday I'm In Love' also managed to do. After about three hours, the band left the stage for the very last time, accompagnied by a large applause and a standing ovation. With good reason too. On the row where we were sitting, several people had already left because of headaches and earaches. If this would have been any other band, I too might have walked away. Today, I'm writing this review after swallowing a few painkillers and a slight but annoying buzz in my left ear, but The Cure definitely made it worthwhile. Next time they come to Belgium, I'm going to watch them again, unless they play in the Sportpaleis. If they play there, I'll respectfully pass. I'm even planning to extend that to every single event happening there. It's just not worth it...