Cure at Meltdown 2018: The Setlist

Greg Kot

4 Min Read

Robert Smith went off the deep end in a sense for the Cure’s 2018 Meltdown performance. As the festival’s curator, Smith designed a setlist brimming with personal favorites that cover each of the band’s studio albums spanning decades. Here’s the setlist the Cure played that night:

“From There to Here”

1. “Three Imaginary Boys”: The Cure begins at the beginning of its trip through its vast catalog, with the title song from its 1979 debut album in tribute to the three imaginary boys (Robert Smith, Michael Dempsey and Lol Tolhurst) who created it.

2. “At Night”: A Franz Kafka short story provides the inspiration for this gothic mood piece.

3. “Other Voices”: Sultry, but rife with anxiety. There are so many voices in Smith’s head, all telling him what to do, but no matter what he does, he’s “always wrong.”

4. “A Strange Day”: A stark example of just how deep the black hole Smith digs on the “Pornography” album, with the Apocalypse as disorienting daydream.

5. “Bananafishbones”: Smith smirks and gestures as he contemplates his inevitable demise.

6. “A Night Like This”: A doomy but melodic gem from one of the Cure’s most pop-oriented albums, “A Head on the Door” (1985).

7. “Like Cockatoos”: A Middle Eastern vibe and stuttering rhythmic bed distinguish this deep cut from “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” (1987).

8. “Pictures of You”: The Cure play very few singles on this night, but this is an exception, a haunting ballad that is among Smith’s most beloved songs.

9. “High”: Smith’s tone is buoyant, especially when his voice wordlessly mimics the melody line he plays on guitar.

10. “Jupiter Crash”: Acoustic guitar anchors this ode to a sexual encounter that leaves a scar.

11. “39”: “The fire is almost out,” Smith cries. If so, this song tries madly to rekindle it, with Reeves Gabrels’ slide guitar leading the charge.

12. “Us or Them”: Boisterous ebb and flow, with Smith striking a feistily defiant stance.

13. “It’s Over”: Again, the lyrics speak of surrender, but the hard-rocking band is having none of that.

14. “It Can Never Be the Same”: Ominous, distorted bass underpins Smith’s tortured vocal on this outtake from the “4:13 Dream” album.

 “From Here to There”

15. “Step into the Light”: Another “4:13 Dream” leftover proves its mettle on stage.

16. “The Hungry Ghost”: A rare stab at social commentary over syncopated drums and wah-wah guitar.

17. “alt.end”: The end of an affair, but Smith insists “all my dreams came true,” and then emphatically adds, “Yes, they did.”

18. “The Last Day of Summer”: A melancholy guitar melody says everything about this song before Smith sings a word.

19. “Want”: The grandeur builds to epic scale even as Smith laments, “I want it all, but I’m running out of time.”

20. “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea”: Another fully realized epic of obsession and anxiety, with Gabrels dishing out big, ringing notes atop Smith’s acoustic foundation.

21. “Disintegration”: Keyboards conjure the sound of breaking glass as the title track from the Cure’s 1989 album unfolds like a slow-motion car crash. 

22. “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep”: Scraping guitar strings give this opus an acid-rock texture before the gorgeous, sustained keyboard notes float the song away.

23. “Sinking”: Another instrumental intro almost as long as the song itself (a Cure signature), with Smith lamenting, “I am slowing down as the years go by.” He was all of 26 when he wrote the song for the 1985 “Head on the Door” album.

24. “Shake Dog Shake”: Words and guitars shake, rattle and roar with violence.

25. “One Hundred Years”: “It doesn’t matter if we all die,” the song’s bereft narrator declares as he confronts his demise yet again. Thundering drums and long screaming guitar lines mirror the mood. 

26. “Primary”: Another grand-scale contemplation of mortality with pile-driving bass and drums.

27. “A Forest”: If any one song could be said to define the Cure, the centerpiece of the 1980 “Seventeen Seconds” album would have to be considered. It gets Smith’s vote. “The archetypal Cure sound,” he once told me about this song. “It was probably the turning point when people started listening to the group and thinking we could achieve something, including me.”

28. “Boys Don’t Cry”: Back to the beginning of the Cure’s career. After a heavyweight set, Smith indulges the fans with one of his first forays into writing a pop song.

Greg Kot is the editorial director of The Coda Collection. He is also the cohost of the nationally syndicated public-radio show and podcast “Sound Opinions” with Jim DeRogatis, and previously the music critic at the Chicago Tribune for 30 years. His books include acclaimed biographies of Mavis Staples (“I’ll Take You There”) and Wilco (“Learning How to Die”) and a history of the digital music revolution (“Ripped”). He also coauthored “The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Rivalry” and has written extensively for Rolling Stone, BBC Culture and Encyclopedia Britannica. When he takes off the headphones, Kot coaches in his Chicago-based youth travel basketball program ( In addition, he has coauthored two best-selling editions of the book “Survival Guide to Coaching Youth Basketball.”

Stories like this straight to your inbox

Exclusive video and the best music writing in the world, in your inbox every week. Subscribe today.