After seven albums and a number of incarnations, side projects, hiatuses, and potential hiatuses, there are always questions going into a Cursive show. Will they tour again? Will they record again? What kind of material are they going to play tonight? At least that last question was answered during their recent stop at The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, England on Friday, June 8th. Playing between two and four songs from each of their last five albums, Cursive performed a healthy mix of their post-Steve Pedersen catalogue.
The opening acts helped demonstrate how tricky the balancing act that Cursive pulls off is. First off, local band Wot Gorilla? displayed much of the same sudden shifts and quirkiness, despite having a very different sound. While their entire set was very calculated, despite having strangely inappropriate teen-emo vocals, second opener Kevin Devine’s solo acoustic performance was all earnestness. It was at times captivatingly earnest, if not impressive musically. Cursive came on and showed how to impress musically, keep it tight, and still deliver with the kind of passion that makes it seem like Tim Kasher just thought of what he was going to say seconds earlier.
Starting with “This House Alive”, the opener from their new album I Am Gemini (QRO review), they took all of one note off before immediately ripping into “Big Bang”, a standout track from 2006’s Happy Hollow and one of the most distinctive songs in their catalogue. This track simultaneously displayed why they are so loved and why you probably won’t be hearing them on the radio anytime soon. Who else would write a song so unhinged to seriously tackle the mystery of human existence? This again quickly segued into “A Gentleman Caller” from The Ugly Organ, before stopping to acknowledge that they too need to breathe.
Much of the songs demonstrated Cursive’s discovery of horns and proved that this trend didn’t end with Happy Hollow. The next highlight came about halfway into the set with new track “The Sun and the Moon”. The early parts of this song demonstrated their other discovery of synths, but it hit its stride when they opened up and let it rip, much like they did a few songs later with crowd favorite “The Martyr” from their breakthrough 2000 album Domestica. They continued to strike a balance, playing the seething rarity “Sink to the Beat” from the Burst and Bloom EP, and then the plaintive and popular “From the Hips” off of Mama, I’m Swollen (QRO review).
Though the crowd contained a healthy mix of ages, by this time of the night most who remained were surprisingly young and clearly the most passionate fans there despite being too young to remember The Ugly Organ being released, much less Domestica. Cursive left the stage amidst a wall of looped electronic blips. Soon they returned for a three-song encore, concluding with the jittery and triumphant-sounding single “Dorothy at Forty”, an appropriate song to end a set by a youthful band with members entering mid-life. After a couple more U.K. dates, they take a month and a half break before kicking off the (mostly Canadian) North American leg of their tour on July 27th in Chicago.