Back in 2019, The Cure released a double-video-album featuring two live shows from 2018, their 40th anniversary concert at Hyde Park (which I attended) and their experimental "Curaetion" show from the Meltdown festival a few weeks earier.

Rumours that there would be a release had been circulating since the gig itself, where video director Tim Pope was spotted filming the gig (sporting a tee shirt reading "Yes I'm Filming. No I don't know when you'll see it."). Earlier in 2019 the "Anniversary" half had a limited run in cinemas, but the home video release was not officially revealed until much later, and the inclusion of Curaetion an unexpected bonus.

'deluxe' releases

The release is available in several configurations. The "standard" issue is a two-DVD (or Blu Ray) set in a hard-book case, with some liner notes in the middle. A "deluxe" issue is a roughly twice-as-large boxed set containing the two video discs and two CD-audio discs of the shows.

When it comes to deluxe editions, I would historically have been the perfect "mark", but I've had some bad experiences with other releases (this is a story for another blog post), so for this release I pre-ordered the standard BR edition. Right up until release, I wondered whether I should have made the other choice. Eventually, pictures of other people's Deluxe Editions started to circulate, and I was re-assured that I made the right call. The larger box is just something harder to store, the larger booklet is an exact reproduction of the smaller, standard edition liner notes, which are not really notable.

The shows

I think the shows are great. The Hyde Park show is a fairly standard "best of" setlist, and my enjoyment of it might be coloured by having been at the show and having fond memories of it. But it's a great performance and very well captured, so I think there's something for people who like the Cure but weren't there to enjoy too.

I wasn't at the Meltdown show. The setlist for that one is much more esoteric, and it's lovely to have renditions of songs that are rarely performed live (And: across the two sets you get If Only Tonight We Could Sleep twice).

Getting the audio

I knew in advance that I would likely listen to the shows more often than watch them, so the CDs in the Deluxe set would have been useful for that, but I was fairly sure the audio mix would be the same as on the video discs, so I could just extract that. I was half-right: the BR set (at least) has 5.1 surround and separate lossless stereo mixes, but they have been mastered quite differently to the CD audio, which appears to be brick-wall mastered, to such an extent that the audio distorts quite noticeably in a few places. The BR audio does not seem to suffer from the same problems.

Getting the audio off the discs was interesting. On Linux, the tool of choice for decoding encrypted Blu Rays is libaacs, which requires a list of Blu Ray keys which you must source separately. With my BR drive I was not able to decode the discs using the keys I could find online. However, the separate tool MakeMKV was able to decode them. I don't know exactly how but I speculate that MakeMKV contains some leaked hardware player keys that are not in more general circulation.

Once I had decoded copies of the two videos, the trusty tool ffmpeg is able to easily extract the PCM stereo audio track. Unfortunately it cannot, in one go, split the audio track at the chapter boundary points. This is easy to script around: one ffmpeg invocation to get the chapter offsets, then some scripting to turn that into seek and duration command-line arguments for further ffmpeg invocations. For space reasons, I opted to transcode to FLAC at the same time as extracting each track. I hit an interesting (although not fatal) problem: the time taken to extract each track got progressively slower, almost as if ffmpeg was transcoding the entire audio track up to the point specified as the offset to start extracting from.

If I wanted to answer categorically whether the BR audio was preferable, I would need to perform a double-blind listening test, using a tool such as squishyball. I certainly can't be bothered: the BR audio is fine for me.