The Van Halen of the alternative-rock scene, the Cure, played a muscular, danceable two-hour set to a more-than-enthusiastic, mostly teenage crowd. The first rock concert for some time at the Rose Bowl was a rousing success.
But the all-American Rose Bowl at first seemed like an odd choice for a band that many associate with gloom and angst, and the thousands of Cureheads dressed in their finest ghoul-look black velvet, black tights and black makeup suffered considerably until the hot sun set and the Cure promptly came onstage, as promised earlier by emcee Richard Blade, at 8:30. And the night dramatically added to the Cure’s atmospheric, shimmery music.
On records, the band can get mired down in woeful, dirgelike guitar work and baleful lyrics, made especially angst-ful by lead singer/guitarist and its creative force, Robert Smith, as well as suffering from the “all the songs sound the same” syndrome. In concert, though, the Cure is punchy, energetic and tight.
As soon as Smith & Co. hit the stage, the crowd was on its feet, as well as its seats, dancing happily to “Just Say Hello.” The Cure’s stage set was really quite beautiful–a kind of post-modern, post-apocalyptic Parthenon with dreamy silk curtains and two video screens that flanked the stage, which provided more artsy visuals. The light show wowed the crowd, too, as it changed from exquisitely chosen deep green tones to aqua to red to purple.
Smith connected with the audience with a minimum of between-song chatter, and when they played hits like the current “High” and “Friday I’m in Love,” the fans sang along, truly relating to Smith’s well-honed pop sensibilities and lyrics.
What became apparent during the crowd-pleasing show was not the Cure’s rep as gloom meisters, but Smith’s talent for quirky pop, especially such tunes as “Pictures of You,””High,””Let’s Go to Bed” and “Close to You.” They do have a sound that no one else has imitated, at least not successfully, and the charismatic leader’s stance as a misunderstood outsider is nectar to teenagers and college philosophy majors.
What was also a treat for older fans was that the set list spanned the band’s career, from 1979’s “Boys Don’t Cry” and ’81’s “Primary” to 1985’s “In Between Days” to “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,” a cut off current CD “Wish.”
The Cure gave the fans their money’s worth, so they can be forgiven the self-indulgence during the last encore, although the loudness of the show seemed to overcompensate for their lack of outdoor arena (excepting Wembley Stadium) experience. At times, the distortion detracted from the excellent musicianship.
Openers the Cranes were met with apathy, while college radio superstars and next big thing Dinosaur Jr. showed why they are hailed as the talent they are. They also had the guts to cover the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” amid boos from less-than-enlightened Cureheads.
Giant crowd handled itself well and security was tight, but not oppressive. Here’s to more successful Rose Bowl shows.