(Frank Micelotta/Getty Images for MySpace)
If you're anything like the freakazoid Cure fans who one way or another managed to secure a wristband for last night's surprise Cure show at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, you should probably stop reading this right now. If you weren't at the show and opt to continue, the rest of your day might end up a little sadder, a little more glum. You'll feel left out, like all the good stuff happens somewhere else to luckier and/or better-positioned people. You'll feel like, well, the protagonist of a Robert Smith song.
Thus forewarned, we shall continue: The Cure played a nearly three-hour show, courtesy of MySpace Music, at one of the best clubs in the country to approximately 450 people last night. They played "Killing an Arab," they played "Grinding Halt." They absolutely killed "Push," with longtime Cure guitarist Porl Thompson tearing through that jangled chord pattern while Smith's own shining black guitar rang along. Like a lot of Cure songs "Push" plays like Smith's side of an argument, his lyrics a dialogue aimed at someone on the other side of the song, usually a lover or an ex. "Go go go, push him away," he pleaded, "No no no, don't let him stay." But where on record Smith feels whiny and defeated, on the little stage at the Troubadour to a crowd who knew every word to every song and had no problem screaming along, the singer, fueled by the energy, was defiant, angry. It was an awesome performance, one of the best of the night.
Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and his wife, Lyn-Z of Mindless Self Indulgence (photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images for MySpace)
Of all the bands of the British post-punk movement, the Cure in 2008
have become perhaps the most influential, and you could see it in the
crowd. Members of My Chemical Romance, the Killers, AFI, All American Rejects, 30 Seconds to Mars and Paramore were spotted,
each of which has harnessed the Cure's brand of confessional,
semi-defeated love song to strike a nerve with the lost and the lonely.
The crowd was shockingly, wonderfully young, providing more proof that
where some of Smith's peers in the British 1980s scene have grown up
and into contemporary adults -- the biggest being the Police, U2, and Elvis Costello
-- the Cure's offerings address a lost-love confusion that provides
universal solace, yes, but strikes a particular chord with teenagers and twenty-somethings. But then, Smith hasn't really grown up, either. He
still wears that hideous rat's nest of hair, splotches red lipstick on
his face and circles his eyes with deep black mascara.
(photo by Jeremy and Claire Weiss)
that Smith has remained vital in part because of those eyes. Surrounded
in black, his whites pop out like Dracula's, but where you expect them
to exude danger, they in fact overflow with love and generosity. Over
the course of the night his eyes moved left and right, surveying the
crowd, honing in on a particular person, staring and smiling and
tunneling love. To steal a phrase from the poet/publisher Jonathan Galassi, he
gets inside your eyes and finds the vein that is the tunnel to your
heart. I was way way up front on the left side of the stage, and at one
point he walked our way and locked in on me. He bore into my eyes for
about three seconds (though it seemed like three minutes), and it felt
like he was an inch away from me, hadn't seen me in years, and had
missed me terribly. Then he moved from mine to another's, and
another's. He made whole pockets of the crowd howl just by turning his
peepers their way. It was amazing. (Thank heavens Smith chose the rock life
instead of the cult life -- he could Charles-Manson an entire
population if he wanted to.)
Smith was in a great mood,
drinking Budweiser all night long (he rivals only Robert Pollard of
Guided by Voices in brewski consumption), chatting with the crowd, doing
little dances -- and rocking the fuck out. Louder and harder than on
record, the band brought their stadium show to a little club (Jason
Cooper's drums took up half the stage, Thompson and Smith's effects
pedals a big chunk of the rest, and bassist Simon Gallup bent and
stomped at stage left), turned ballads into denials. The band transformed a
renowned folk club into a sweaty punk bar. My left ear is kind of
fucked this morning; I was right in front of Thompson (who, recall,
toured with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in the mid 1990s), and his
guitar sounded huge and damaging. His deep blue fingnails poked at his strings with a menace, his black platform shoes wah-wahing and pedal stomping like a punker in his prime. Lacking a keyboard, Thompson picked out all those
memorable melodies --
"Head in the Door,"; "Close to Me," "The Walk," "Let's Go To Bed"
-- on his fretboard, and the result was a rougher, tougher, more
aggressive sound. You could hear it all night long, but particularly by
encore number two, which was was a goth's wet dream: "A Forest," "Boys
Don't Cry," "Jumping Someone Else's Train," "Grinding Halt," "10:15
Saturday Night," and "Killing An Arab."
Have a good Sunday. I told you not to read this.
The Cure set list, The Troubadour, Los Angeles, December 13, 2008
(courtesy of Chain of Flowers)
Underneath the Stars
Pictures of You Lullaby
The Perfect Boy
The Reasons Why
The End of the World
Real Snow White
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
The Only One
Sleep When I'm Dead
Friday I'm In Love
Just Like Heaven
One Hundred Years
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Let's Go To Bed
Close To Me
Why Can't I Be You?
Boys Don't Cry
Jumping Someone Else's Train
10:15 Saturday Night
Killing An Arab