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2/18/2000  Rolling Stone Online (2-17-00 San Francisco, California Show Review)
The Cure Let It Bleed in San Francisco

Glum English stalwarts the Cure still know how to create a mood

When the Cure toured America in their late Eighties heyday, they had no problem packing cavernous stadiums filled with contemplative, black-clad teenagers. On Thursday, the melancholy British band opened its latest stateside trek with an intimate set at San Francisco's 1200-capacity Fillmore Theater.

Shifts in popular culture over the past decade may not have worked exactly in the Cure's favor, but the group clearly remains at the top of its game. The Cure have just released Bloodflowers, their most consistent -- and some would argue, substantial -- album since 1989's Disintegration; and despite rumors that this would be their final missive, frontman Robert Smith seems to be having too much fun to call it quits.

Though typically not a cheerful lot, the Cure's newfound sense of purpose certainly came through in San Francisco. From the moment the band took the stage, Smith appeared delighted to be back in his element. Performing against an unadorned backdrop, the band opened the show with "Out of This World," the meditative lead-off track from Bloodflowers. Despite his best attempts, Smith remains unwavering in his subject matter. As the familiar sound of windswept guitars rang through the room, the forty-two-year-old frontman regaled the sold-out crowd with the usual maudlin introspection, singing, "And we always have to go/I realize we always have to say good-bye/Always have to go back to our real lives."

Other songs from Bloodflowers -- "Watching Me Fall," "The Last Day of Summer," "Maybe Someday" -- delicately set the mood of the evening. This was no romp through the Cure's greatest hits -- light-hearted radio favorites such as "Just Like Heaven" and "Boys Don't Cry" were cast away in favor of unwieldy album tracks from the dense Pornography and Disintegration albums.

With the reckless experimentation of mid-Nineties failures Wish and Wild Mood Swings behind them, the Cure seem bent on reclaiming their singular identity on this tour. All the songs tonight stuck to a vague but uniformly bleak tempo and theme. On "39," Smith sang "I used to feed the fire/But the fire is almost out/And there's nothing left to burn." This sentiment fit perfectly with classic Cure songs like "Prayers for Rain" and "The Figurehead."

Smith must know the band occasionally borders on self-parody -- after all, he consented to appearing as a fire-breathing goth monster on South Park last year. Yet tonight the closest he came to clichéd rock star behavior was with the distorted faces he exuded while trying to reach the emotional core of the material. Likewise, the rest of the band -- bassist Simon Gallup, guitarist Perry Balmonte, drummer Jason Cooper and keyboardist Roger O'Donnell -- stoically played behind him, careful not to disrupt the rich atmosphere of the night.

Indeed, the results of such measured dedication were impressive. Over the Cure's extended set, there were many moments of genuine musical epiphany, where the words and the music and the rapt hush of the crowd worked so well together that the feeling of being transported to Smith's off-kilter dreamland was undeniable.

Not such a bad feat for a band that is often out of fashion, but never out of style.

- Aidin Vaziri

 

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