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The Cure At The Hollywood Bowl, Wednesday, May 24th, 2023, Reviewed

The Cure
The Cure

Not only Robert Smith fought very hard to reduce the price of the tickets for the current tour of the Cure, not only he fought every day to prevent resellers from making a profit, but he also delivered a close-to-3-hour show at the Hollywood Bowl last night. You have to recognize that he is the real deal: I also looked at the price of the t-shirts while leaving the Bowl, and they were all at $25 when most of the merchandise for bands of this status is usually sold at $40-60. Robert cares about his fans… a lot and this visibly matters. Nevertheless, tickets were very hard to get for the Cure’s three consecutive nights at the Bowl – after all, it’s the band’s first North American tour since 2016 – and, last time I checked, Vividseats was still reselling tickets at outrageous prices, defying Robert Smith’s constant efforts to fight the aberrant system.

The fans fully recognize this special relationship they have with the ‘80s icon, and the band sold out the 17,500-seat venue three nights in a row. Very few bands can do that, and if they kept most of the hits for the second encore, the entire night was an impressive display of their long career, browsing most of their albums, and stretching a few songs in long and rewarding instrumentals.

With his red lipstick, black eyeliner, and voluminous messy hair – he looks like he had just received an electro-shock – Robert Smith is still the goth icon of the ‘80s …same silhouette with a few more years. It was also difficult to ignore the giant rainbow heart below his worn-out black shirt: it was an unusual touch of color in this otherwise very black goth environment and a probable acknowledgment to the LGBT community.

The show kicked off with “Alone,” an unreleased track from the Cure’s upcoming 14th album, “Songs of a Lost World,” and for 2 hours and 45 minutes, the band delivered haunting soundscapes and plenty of tasters of their forthcoming work: “Another (Happy) Birthday,” “Endsong,” “And Nothing Is Forever,” “Alone,” “A Fragile Thing,” “I Can Never Say Goodbye.” “Songs of a Lost World” is a highly anticipated album as it is their first since their “4:13 Dream,” which was released in 2008. It’s always risky to plan a tour in support of an album not released yet since nobody obviously knows the songs, but the Cure is too solid, too famous, and too beloved for bothering about these details. And fans knew they would hear the hits anyway.

Besides the new cuts, I cannot say I knew all the songs, as they performed lesser-visited corners of their discography, but everything they played had these unmistakable Cure fingerprints. Songs were sometimes turning into towering and complex orchestrations (they were six on stage), while covering everything from pop with a dark twist, to post-punk with creepy moments immediately followed by luminous peaks. Although they were composed in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the Cure compositions are ageless and timeless, and many hit you like flashbacks of adolescence with all its hopes, heartbreaks, and defiance. There has always been a teenage romantic aura around the lyrics immersed in ennui, or lovers’ struggle against the world.

Robert Smith’s voice hasn’t certainly changed at all, last night his voice soared as strong as ever over the music. If he has revealed in interviews that the forthcoming project heavily deals with mortality after recently losing his parents and brother, the atmosphere of the show had this glowing aura of eternal youth. Still, “I Can Never Say Goodbye,” a song tribute to his late brother, seemed to explore the dark side of the soul and quoted Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “Something wicked this way comes.”

He played the flute for the intro of “Burn” and alternated between electric and acoustic guitar, but we had to wait till the end of the show to see him pick up the mic in one hand and walk from right to left to greet both sides of the stage. Bassist Simon Gallup was undoubtedly the musician moving the most on stage, mounting the monitors and almost scraping his instrument while he ran from one side to the other.

After ”Burn”, they did “Another (Happy) Birthday,” “A song we played for the first time live yesterday,” Robert told us. This was not a typical Cure tune at all, and even though it didn’t receive the same kind of reaction as the more famous songs, fans appreciated how special this was. In any case, the band knew how to cleverly alternate between new ones, deep cuts, and hits such as the propelling, stadium-ready “Push.” From catchy synth lines which sounded as dark as they were danceable, to thunderous cascading drums, to distinct guitar lines, the songs came in quick succession with Robert’s squealing vocals and the most heart-pulsing moments took us back through the past 45 years.

The set was structured with two lengthy “encores” (but I would rather call them parts) interrupted by short interludes to let the musicians catch their breath. If the first encore was still made of meandrous and dark compositions like “It Can Never Be the Same,” it gave us the more luminous “Plainsong” with its soothing guitar lines while “Disintegration” transformed the bowl in a giant nightclub with forests of arms pointing the sky.

The second encore brought all the hits and triggered waves of ecstatic energy throughout the large amphitheater: “Lullaby,” “Let’s Go to Bed,” “Friday I’m in Love,” “Close to Me,” “In Between Days,” “Just Like Heaven,” “Boys Don’t Cry” to cite the most famous ones. It was an ear-candy fest for the +17,000 people around me, a poppy 40-hit galore making the crowd totally euphoric while joining in a giant sing-along “That’s it, this is the last one” Robert Smith said before playing “Boys Don’t Cry”… was anybody crying? maybe, but it must have been out of pure joy.

Setlist
Alone
Pictures of You
Lovesong
And Nothing Is Forever
If Only Tonight We Could Sleep
A Fragile Thing
Cold
Burn
Another (Happy) Birthday
A Night Like This
Push
A Forest
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
Endsong

Encore:
I Can Never Say Goodbye
It Can Never Be the Same
Plainsong
At Night
Disintegration

Encore 2:
Lullaby
Six Different Ways
The Walk
Let’s Go to Bed
Friday I’m in Love
Close to Me
In Between Days
Just Like Heaven
Boys Don’t Cry

 

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