The Cure - Pantages Theater - 11-22-11
By Siran Babayan
Better Than....Crying home alone
Tonight, Morrissey performs a last-minute gig at the Music Box where the marquee reads: "There Is No Such Thing In Life As Normal...We Love You Morrissey." If you walk past fans who've been camped outside since last night, buy them coffee.
Across the street at the Pantages Theater, Robert Smith and company will play the final of three local concerts as part of The Cure's Reflections tour. Two icons of '80s indie rock doing a show on the same night, on the same street -- only in L.A.
"1979!" declared singer Smith, upon which time he, bassist Simon Gallup and drummer Jason Cooper began with the "drip, drip, drip" of "10:15 Saturday Night," kicking off the first of three sets dedicated to the bands first three albums -- 1979's Three Imaginary Boys, 1980's Seventeen Seconds and 1981's Faith. Their three encores were also heavy on B-sides. (Three-plus hours is standard for a Cure show).
There were few KROQ-friendly numbers, and no "In Between Days" or "Friday I'm In Love." This tour was designed for hardcore fans, fans who knew which songs to clap along to in unison. It was an older-looking crowd, too, light on the latex. No creepy crawlies or Count Choculas, though you expected to see a set of heaving bosoms underneath a corset somewhere. Or, at the very least, a tumbleweed of hair blocking your view.
If a chubby man in black PJs and helmet hair doesn't do anything for you, look at Gallup. At 51, and the band's longest-lasting member behind Smith, Gallup is still a fox. Permanently crouched over his bass, he doesn't crack a smile and looks better in black tights than most women.
With all the political upheaval in Egypt, a song like "Fire in Cairo" might have strange significance 30 years later. But whenever a singer feels the need to spell out the lyrics ("F-i-r-e i-n C-a-i-r-o"), you gotta laugh. Throw in a cover of Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" and the rockabilly-tinged "The Weedy Burton," and Three Imaginary Boys is poppier and catchier than The Cure's two follow-up albums.
Keyboardist Roger O'Donnell joined the set for Seventeen Seconds, a moody and atmospheric record -- from its three instrumentals to the woozy synth of "Play for Today" to the lushly-layered "Forest," during which the house lights appropriately went green. Alternating on drums and keyboards, Cure founding member and L.A. resident since the early '90s Lol Tolhurst joined the set for Faith, an album about drowning men and funerals, and perhaps the band's darkest and heaviest second to 1982's Pornography.
As weighty as early-period Cure can be, there's a pop gem to be found on every record. And as civilized as an esteemed, musicals venue like the Pantages can be (a soundtrack of twittering birds and rain was played during the intermissions), both Smith and the audience finally let loose during the encores, which including the lone radio hit, "Boys Don't Cry." The boy didn't cry, but he sounded like a petulant child on songs like "Let's Go to Bed" and the jazz-flavored "The Love Cats," as Smith playfully rolled his eyes, twirled his wrists and shimmied like a human slinky. And still, his hair didn't move.
Set list below.
Three Imaginary Boys
10:15 Saturday Night
Fire In Cairo
It's Not You
Three Imaginary Boys
The Weedy Burton
Play For Today
In Your House
The Final Sound
At Night Play
The Holy Hour Play Video
All Cats Are Grey
The Funeral Party
The Drowning Man
Boys Don't Cry
Killing An Arab
Jumping Someone Else's Train
Another Journey By Train
Splintered In Her Head
The Hanging Garden
Let's Go To Bed
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