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The Cure: Trilogy (Pornography/Disintegration/Bloodflowers Live in Berlin) on Blu-ray Disc Review

By Brandon A. DuHamel

The Performance

It's impossible to pinpoint The Cure's classic lineup with the band having gone through so many personnel changes, from their formative years as The Obelisk at Note Dame Middle School in Crawley, Sussex to their days as Easy Cure circa 1976 to their present state as The Cure. There has, however, been one constant, and that is frontman, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Robert Smith. Many may not recognize Smith by name, but surely they will recognize him when they see his teased black hair and smeared red lipstick.

Influenced by a serendipitous encounter touring as the supporting band for Siouxsie &The Banshees in 1979 that found Smith pulling double duty as guitarist for both bands each night when Banshees guitarist John McKay quit the group, Robert Smith's music would take a turn that would lead The Cure to become one of lead acts in the post-punk and subsequent goth rock movements.

Goth rock is not a label that Robert Smith himself is happy with, but for lack of a better descriptive, The Cure falls into that genre of acts -- the late-70's/early-80's British bands that took the rawness of punk, the avant-garde droning and edgy subject matter of The Velvet Underground, the theatricality of glam rock from the likes of Bowie and T. Rex and gloomy, or Wagnerian sensibilities and combined them with just a touch of synth pop borrowed from Kraftwerk.  Bands of this ilk, such as Joy Division (and its spawn New Order), Bauhaus, and Echo & The Bunnymen would eventually dominate modern rock radio and the soundtracks of John Hughes films all through the 1980's. These goth rock acts, The Cure among them, with their morbid fascinations and their depressing ruminations on the darker side of love and life would go on to influence artists today, such as Interpol, My Chemical Romance, Franz Ferdinand and others.

In 2000, The Cure released the third of what Robert Smith refers to as a trilogy of albums, Bloodflowers, and embarked on a worldwide tour. They also did stops in Brussells and Berlin, performing each album in this trilogy -- 1982's Ponography, 1989's Disintegration, and 2000's Bloodflowers -- in its entirety.  This Blu-ray disc captures their stop in Berlin's Tempodrom in November of 2002 and was recorded live over the course of two nights.

The set was typical of The Cure, dark and gloomy with little in the way of special effects. The stage was lit up with only indigo, red and the occasional yellow and white lights. With the band covered in a veil of shadowy darkness, their all-over black clothing and black guitars left the entertainment up to the energy of their performance and the quality of their music, which certainly did not disappoint.

Each album was performed straight through with a brief pause between sets. Pornography was naturally the edgiest of the three, relying the least on keyboards and more on the screaming guitars, pulsating basslines and frenetic drumming. Standout songs from the Pornography set include "Siamese Twins" and "Figurehead."

For those who may not be deeply familiar with he music of The Cure, the Disintegration set will most likely offer the most familiar material and also the most melodic and least depressing tunes. The familiar numbers "Pictures of You" and "Lovesong" appear in this set, performed with surprising amounts of energy. Given the songs' ages and their popularity in The Cure canon, it would be easy to phone them in and call it a night, but the band plays them with gusto.

Moving on to the Bloodflowers set, the band takes a slightly more acoustic turn, yet manages to evoke classic Cure periods, particularly the classic "goth" era material, which is presumably why it is partnered with Pornography and Disintegration. I can't say that anything from the third and final set reaches the same level as the older material, but if I had to pick a standout track, it would be "Watching Me Fall."

The sheer volume of material on this Blu-ray disc and the obvious level of skill and energy The Cure show in the their performance make this release from Eagle Rock a valuable document of one of the most admired and innovative acts in rock history.

The Picture

Captured in high definition at 1080i/60 in 2002 using 12 cameras, Trilogy was transferred to Blu-ray disc using the AVC/MPEG-4 codec and lingers around the 10Mbps mark much of the time. This is due to the production values of the show, which is done in low light, with little movement and very few colors. Those same production values, however, lend themselves to video noise and soft imagery, which isn't excessive by any means, but is certainly present.

The varying quality of the camera lenses leads some shots to be nosier and softer than others, while some shots are quite clean and detailed. The transfer also suffers from some color banding, which is most obvious during the performance of "A Strange Day" from the Pornography set when there are some soft yellowish stage lights lit up.

The Sound

The Cure Trilogy comes to Blu-ray with 96kHz/24-bit PCM stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless (96kHz/24-bit) mixes in addition to a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Proving that sound quality is just as dependent on the quality of the recording, the mixing, and the mastering as it is on the sampling rate and the codec used to capture it, Trilogy's two high-resolution mixes, PCM and DTS-HD MA, both sound superior to the lossy Dolby Digital mix, but the stereo PCM track is the better of the two in this instance.

With a more balanced mix that has more clearly delineated instrumentation, a fuller sounding midrange and vocals less likely to be buried, the PCM stereo mix sounds livelier and much more cohesive.  The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, conversely, loses some midrange punch, the drums sound weaker and the lead vocals tend to get lost in the mix. There is some slight expansiveness of the soundstage gained, but ambience in the rear channels is weak overall.

Moving on to the lossy Dolby Digital mix, the balance in the mix seems to completely collapse into chaos. Ambience sounds tight and the high frequencies are harsher than in either of the other two mixes. It's a definite step down in quality.

The Extras

Cure fans will rejoice that the supplements offer more time with The Cure, but they will probably go back to the Encore Set the most. The Interview will also be a welcome supplement for fans, giving them a look into the inner workings of the band.

The extras available on this disc are:

  • Encore Set:
    • "If Only We Could Sleep Tonight"
    • "The Kiss"
  • Credits -- I'm not sure why exactly the scrolling credits are split off under the Special Features section, but that's where they deemed to put them on this release.
  • Interview (1.78:1/standard definition) -- The entire band is interviewed individually and they talk about the band's history, the evolution of the idea to perform the three albums in their entirety and why Berlin was chosen as the city to film the shows.
  • Interview Outtakes (1.78:1/standard definition)
  • Alternate Angle Tracks:
    • "The Same Deep Water As You" (4:3/standard definition) -- Filmed from a camera mounted on frontman Robert Smith's microphone stand
    • "Plain Song" (standard definition) -- Split screen of two alternate camera angles
Where to Buy
Final Thoughts

Trilogy offers over three hours of The Cure in an energetic and well-recorded package that Cure fans will just eat up.  Don't expect a dazzling picture from this moody looking set, but the music is what this show is all about, and that doesn't disappoint.

Product Details
  • Performers: The Cure
  • Video Format: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Audio/Languages:  LPCM Stereo (96kHz/24-bit), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (96kHz/24-bit) Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Disc Release Date: February 3, 2009
  • List Price: $24.98
  • Extras:
    • Extra Set -- Two Bonus Live Performances
    • Interview
    • Interview Outtakes

What did you think?

View all articles by Brandon A. DuHamel
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