We at EvilTapo are about the music and the joy that it brings to our lifestyles. And last week, BeeGee of the EvilTapo ministry was fortunate to spend a good chunk of time immersed in The Cure’s three-night residency at the Hollywood Bowl, witnessing a mind-blowing performance each and every evening.
Although each show was three hours long and the band performed 32-35 songs a night, they radically mixed up the set list for each night. Fifty-five different songs were performed over the three Hollywood Bowl nights. In fact, during the first 12 tour dates so far, The Cure has performed 75 different songs. Do the math: that’s crazy rehearsal time. Now that Prince has joined the afterlife, what artist or band plays that many different songs? It's a short list: Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, and...The Cure. You should do yourself a favor and try to catch one of their shows.
The Cure is a mainstay on the Festival circuit and many have caught their show over the last few years at Coachella, Austin City Limits or Bottlerock, but these shows do not accurately reflect the power of the current tour and band line up. The touring band consists of the same members as it has for the past 20 years, including leader Robert Smith vocals and guitar, Simon Gallup on bass, Roger O’Donnel on keyboards, and Jason Cooper on drums. But a big addition to the group was guitarist Reeves Gabrels, a longtime member of the late David Bowie’s band. Gabrels has been standing in with the band for the last few years, but seems to be really finding his own on this tour, taking lead and adding his punched up guitar playing style to some of the songs.
The shows are three-hour sets with The Cure's full production, which means lots of smoke, obscure visual displays, and mood lighting. Half of the setlist each night was made up of songs from the band's most popular period, 1985 – 1989, when they released Head on the Door, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, and Disintegration. But each night delivered a much different setlist, with remaining tracks gathered from throughout the bands' 37-year recording history. This included two new songs, B-sides, deep album cuts, and of course Cure classics like "The Forest" and "Shake Dog Shake."
Night 1 focused on Disintegration. They opened the show with the first three songs from the album, leading many fans to wonder if they would play the album from start to finish. They didn’t, but ended up playing eight songs from the 1989 classic album. On Night 2, the band played five songs from 1992’s Wish, but had only played one song from Wish the night before. But the biggest jaw dropper was on Night 3, when Robert Smith and the boys featured five songs from the much-overlooked 2001 album Bloodflowers, yet had not played a single song from that record in the previous 2 nights. Bottom-line: The Cure will always surprise you.
Beyond the music, the overall stage design complimented the audioscape to create a full immersive experience of gothic beauty. The Bowl shell glimmered with intense hues of purple, red and blue while strobe lights flickered during intense instrumentals. Visual screens paired up to compliment the music and lyrics and leave the crowd in a trance.
Apart from bassist Gallup, who roams the stage freely, the band remains stationary during the show and lets the music be the focal point. And although Mr. Smith has a flamboyant look with his trademark bird nest hair, white face makeup, guy liner and red lipstick, he is most comfortable playing his guitar and standing behind the microphone singing his songs of hopelessness and fear. Smith’s awkwardness of stepping to the forefront was most evident near the end of the show when he unstrapped his guitar and began to dance -- or should I say, wobble like a weeble wobbles -- along to pop hits "Close To You" and "Why Can’t I Be You?" This led my mate to comment, ”The Cure may share fans with Depeche Mode, but that ain’t Dave Gahan moving up there." The point is, it’s about the music with The Cure. Smith doesn’t dance, or chat, or talk about saving the rain forest; he just politely says hello and thank you and lets the music speak for itself.
Throughout the evening, The Cure brought lots of doom and gloom with a steady dose of extended atmospheric instrumental jams. At the end of each of the Bowl shows, though, they closed out the night with some contrast and light cheer by playing dancey songs like "Boys Don’t Cry."
And for three evenings this past week, this boy did cry: tears of joy.