Live Review: The Cure, Shrine Auditorium, June 1

I had a girlfriend once, P_______, whose favorite band was The Cure. She listened to them incessantly in her car and on her little boombox, finding in them the perfect soundtrack for everything from getting groceries and doing pilates to cleaning the bathroom and yes – having a good cry by candlelight.

She also used to leave her apartment door unlocked and ask me to sneak in “sometime between three and four” in the morning and join her in bed, er, unexpectedly.

In a word, she was weird.

As a Cure fan, she made an indelible impression on me. Though I was an enthusiast long before and long after I met her, I always conjured a live event of theirs to be attended by a coven of similar-minded individuals, sort of a combination of Columbine High students with the suicide hotline on speed dial alongside generally disenfranchised people who found solace in Rimbaud, Wim Wenders films, wearing black and participating in live-action vampire role-playing scenarios. So even though I would frequently blast Mixed Up at top volume while cruising around in my scarred Mazda, making every effort to scare cops, jocks and small animals, I had no designs on actually joining other Cure fans for a communal experience.

Stupid me.

Taking advantage of a friend’s unusable tickets Sunday night, I finally was able to bear witness to what critics, associates and weird girlfriends have testified for years was one of the best live acts in rock. Far from the dour “I-hate-my-parents” population of 40-year-olds I was expecting, the audience was as diverse as a Saturday morning line at the DMV. While those clinging to their Goth stylings were not absent from the affair, they were by far the minority. More surprising was the young Hispanic population – perhaps taking a cue from their culture’s relatively recent Morrissey obsession – that gathered in large numbers for the proceedings.

Cramming all the best bits of video and lighting from their current arena tour into the tiny Shrine Auditorium, The Cure took the stage to mass adoration as a projection of an interstellar starscape slowly trawled behind them. Striking into the aptly coordinated “Out of this World,” Robert Smith & Co. started what would be a nearly three-hour journey through past and present creations lamentably synonymous with hairspray, mascara, lipstick and Anne Rice since the 1980s.

The Cure is too cool for a cell phone
The Cure: Too Much For A Mere Camera Phone

Smith, looking older but less bloated than in recent years, led his similarly stripped-down band (longtime mate Porl Thompson (guitar), Simon Gallup (bass) and Jason Cooper (drums)) into invigorated versions of “Pictures of You” and “Fascination Street” to remind The People exactly why they were there before setting off into less familiar territory. However, far from a “this is where we sit down during the new songs” concert, new Cure concoctions such as “Sleep When I’m Dead” played easily side-by-side with more established offerings – a true testament to the continued creative relevance and longevity of this band.

Having more in common with Led Zeppelin than Bauhaus, the rhythm section of Gallup and Cooper simply killed it all night, providing grit and bombast to songs formerly fit for pet funerals. The facelifts didn’t stop there; sans the dated the keyboards that helped make these songs famous, Smith and Thompson set flame to old numbers by covering most of those parts on their guitars. A ridiculous version of “In Between Days” served as more of a guitar clinic in case anyone was mistaken those simple one-note guitar lines Smith fancies most of the time meant he couldn’t shred.

Smith invoked his trademark feline yowl on occasion and generally seemed to have a good time, including giving the boot to an overzealous fan at the edge of the stage at one point, then commenting “that was even better than I dreamt” afterward.

After 30 + songs and two encores (the second of which included “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” and “Killing an Arab,” among others), The Cure sans Thompson returned to the stage one last time for “Faith,” into which Smith incorporated a happy birthday sentiment for Gallup before disappearing for good, leaving the audience tired but moony eyed with satisfaction.

As for that girlfriend of mine – well, things didn’t quite work out. Though we both liked The Cure, we didn’t have much else in common – I didn’t have daddy issues or think I was a reincarnated 18th century French aristocrat, for example. I came home one day to find she had vacated my apartment, emptying her drawer and leaving my roommate to sniff some discarded underwear of hers that didn’t make it into the plastic shopping bag of belongings she took when she left my life forever.

Come to think of it, he was a big Cure fan, too.

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