Reflections of The Cure in Zagreb from a 53-Year-Old Fan

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Luka Stanzl Pixsell
Luka Stanzl Pixsell

It is a strange feeling finally going to see one of your favourite bands for over 30 years at the tender age of 53, with your two teenage kids in tow, one of them impressively dressed as a Goth and knowing more of their songs these days than I do. 

Zagreb has been very good to me musically. Back in the Eighties, I was fortunate to see many of my musical heroes in their prime: the original Sisters of Mercy on their farewell tour of 1985; a quite unforgettable 15-minute set at 1am by The Jesus and Mary Chain at the legendary Manchester Hacienda in 1984; and sneaking out of boarding school to catch Siouxsie and the Banshees in Preston the following year. 

But there were four bands and artists I still really wanted to see live decades later.  And Zagreb has delivered all four over the years. Never has the saying ‘Better late than never’ been more true. 


I missed out on the Smiths in Manchester in 1986, but was compensated by Morrissey in Zagreb.  Leonard Cohen, at the age of 75, lit up the Zagreb Arena for over three hours. And when I was invited to a private audience with one other journalist to interview the man himself, Johnny Rotten, my life was almost complete. There was just one more band that I had to see to make my musical journey complete. 

If The Smiths assuaged my teenage suicidal feelings back in the mid-1980s, it was The Cure which helped me through a broken relationship 25 years ago. Disintegration, Close to You, and Pictures of You would drown out the misery I was feeling. Although he will never know who I am, Robert Smith has been a part of my life since I came across him first as the Banshees guitarist in about 1984. My Cure fest a quarter of a century ago was enhanced by my Cure-loving neighbour Darren, whose appreciation of the band pre-dated mine, and he was even a penpal of Smith in those early years, showing me some of the letters over yet one more bottle of wine. 

So long ago, and how would it be to see The Cure today, and what kind of performer was Smith today, now a sprightly 63? As I took the kids into the arena, I looked around and was struck by just how young the crowd was. A whole new generation of fans inspired by this musical genius. 

Was I perhaps too old for this concert? And when did seemingly every fan in the audience film every song rather than actually enjoy the experience? It would be great for embedding YouTube videos for this article for sure. 

I got my answer in the second song on an impressively long set (27 songs and 2 hours 35 on stage). 

Pictures of You. 

Eyes closed. Back to the pain of 1999, my darkened living room, Darren’s letters. Cathartic. It had been worth the cost of the ticket in one song. Smith may have aged but he is still a great performer, and so many memories flooded back, of a former life with which I have long ago been at peace. 

One Croatian portal described the concert as something for everyone, and there was certainly a lot of variety, with the first half of the concert a lot heavier and focusing on some new songs from the long-awaited new album.

But there were plenty of older classics, augmented by superb lighting and sound effects. Spiderman is having me for dinner tonight. Lullaby was the first of the second encore, and very welcome for this old fart. Many of the songs before that were unknown to me, and I was hoping for my reminiscing with Disintegration, Just Like Heaven, Close to Me, and a host of Cure hits from when I was young. 

I need not have worried. The second encore was heaven indeed. Among the highlights.

There was no doubt which was the most popular song of the night – The Cure anthem, Friday I’m in Love, a song known and loved by fans of all generations.

Followed by one on my bucket list – Close to Me

In Between Days – I was rolling back the years to 1985. 

And then another of my must haves, and only one of two songs I will dance to – Just Like Heaven.

And a fitting end to my career attending live concerts, to a song from a band who have helped me shed so many tears over the years – Boys Don’t Cry. 

I got what I came for, and more, and looking around the arena at different generations of joy, I could see I was not alone. Magical band, well worth the 30-year wait. 

Full playlist:

1. Alone 2. Pictures of You 3. Closedown 4. A Night LIke This 5. Lovesong 6. And Nothing Is Forever 7. Cold 8. Burn 9. The Hungry Ghost 10. Push 11. Play for Today 12. A Forest 13 The Last Day of Summer 14. Shake Dog Shake 15. From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea 16. Endsong

First encore: 17. I Can Never Say Goodbye 18. Want 19. Prayers for Rain 20. One Hundred Years

Second encore : 21. Lullaby 22. The Walk 23. Friday I’m in Love 24. Close to Me 25. In Between Days 26. Just Like Heaven 27. Boys Don’t Cry.


What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning – Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.









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