Other highs on the opening day of the mighty Lisbon festival include Mogwai and Jorja Smith
Ben Willmott
16:45 12th July 2019

It's a tough job being all things to everyone, unless of course you're The Cure. They seem to manage it pretty well.

Who else, for instance, could send tears rolling down the faces of some fans while just a few feet away others are gleefully dancing, clearly having the time of their lives. Or make their entry with a song about a diseased animal, a shiveringly intense 'Shake Dog Shake', and still get a field full of people greeting it with arms aloft.

Robert Smith, who cuts a Chaplin-esque silhouette of timeless recognition even from the very back of the NOS arena, has had plenty of practice, obviously. The best to thing to crawl out of Crawley were topping the Glastonbury bill some 33 years ago, but even so, their set tonight is as complete an exercise in how to do a festival headline as you'll ever see.

Before that, we get a couple of examples of how not to do it. Weezer are a good laugh, but their combination of bad shirts and good songs – mainly other people's, but good all the same – wears a little thin quite quickly. Playing in the early evening sun – this being continental Europe, things only really get going around 7pm – they drop their biggest hit 'Beverley Hills' early on and then go for highlights of their covers album, A-ha's 'Take On Me' and Toto's 'Africa' among them, and wind up like the wedding band everyone wishes would stop before the disco starts.

Mogwai, on the other hand, make some beautifully crafted noise, taking advantage of the onset of the dark, but ultimately it's all too amorphous and formless for anyone to grab hold of. Judging by the generally blank reaction it elicits, it whizzes over the heads of most.

Their loss is certainly Jorja Smith's gain, as her gracefully urban soul and Loyle Carner's more streetwise hip-hop stylings are mobbed by massive crowds, so large even the cavernous hangar that is the second stage is impossible to get near.

But once midnight hits and The Cure emerges, there's only one place anyone wants to be, give or take the odd few Robyn devotees who stay rooted to the second stage for her well received performance.

It's no surprise, really, that The Cure can command such legendary status – for anyone above teenage years then this is effectively the soundtrack to our lives. With a songbook so extensive, from the goth apocalypse of 'Disintegration'-era anthems like 'Pictures Of You' and 'Fascination Street', to the vicious rendering of 'Never Enough' and then the softer-edged 'Caterpillar' and 'Just Like Heaven', they stoke long lost memories. Mental pictures of friends and lovers long forgotten flicker across faces all around as we're instantly transported back to times of both raw emotion and unbridled joy. It's quite a trick to pull off, but they do it pretty effortlessly.

It's their 'Blue Monday'-style wonky Japanese disco effort 'The Walk' that does it most effectively for this writer, its futuristic fetishism transforming this far off field into a dry ice filled teenage dancefloor of youth. Like so much of their set, which is definitely aimed to reward proper fans rather than casual observers, it hadn't crossed your mind they'd even go there so when they do, its impact is double. It's still echoing round my head when they round things off off with 'Boys Don't Cry', and it's probably the same for many of us, only each with a different songs and a different set of hazy recollections. Definitely a masterclass in how it's done – headliners of the future, take note.

Photo: Arlindo Camacho