“Let’s see how close we can get to the curfew without breaking it.”
That was Robert Smith of the Cure, addressing a capacity crowd at the Hollywood Bowl as the veteran British band began its fourth (!) encore Monday night.
And how close did he and his mates get? Walking offstage at 10:56 p.m., they finished four minutes before the Bowl’s strictly enforced curfew — and nearly three hours after they started playing.
Here are five thoughts on the Cure’s marathon concert, the second date in a sold-out three-night stand that wraps Tuesday.
1. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Cure is putting on such long shows for such large audiences in 2016, eight years after the band’s most recent studio album (and many more since its commercial peak). After all, the radical sensitivity that Smith helped pioneer in the 1980s is everywhere in pop these days, from the fragile bedroom confessions of Troye Sivan to the intimately scaled R&B of Frank Ocean, whose upcoming record is said to be titled “Boys Don’t Cry” after the Cure hit.
But unlike those acts, the Cure remains very much a guitar band, an unfashionable identity it was proud to claim at the Bowl. With a five-man lineup that included guitarist Reeves Gabrels (known for his work with David Bowie), the group ripped through propulsive rockers including “Screw” and “A Night Like This” and turned “Fascination Street” into a swirly psychedelic epic. And for some of the band’s best-known tunes — “Lovesong,” “Just Like Heaven,” “Close to Me” — the musicians cranked the tempo just to show they could.
2. That punky determination didn’t mean the Cure was forgoing other modes. “High” had a jangly, spacious quality — one depicted in video images of fluffy white clouds — while the funky “Hot Hot Hot!!!” demonstrated the band’s impact on a generation of indie-disco inheritors such as the Rapture and LCD Soundsystem. There was also a dose of heavy blues in “Never Enough.”
3. Like earlier shows on the Cure’s current North American tour (which is due to stop for another three-night stand next month at Madison Square Garden), Monday’s gig went way beyond the hits to include rarities such as “Burn,” from the soundtrack of “The Crow,” and “The Exploding Boy,” which Smith introduced as the B-side to “In Between Days.” Following the latter, the Cure went ahead and played the famous A-side — but the devoted crowd here seemed happier to hear the more obscure cut. (Check out a fan-sourced set list here.)
4. The show included two new Cure songs known online as “It Can Never Be the Same” and “Step into the Light.” In the former, a bass-heavy dirge the band played as its first encore, Smith appeared to be singing, as he so often is, about a lost love. But some of the discernible lyrics — “I can sing, I can dance, I can laugh / As if nothing ever changed” — made you wonder if, at 57, he might be pondering his artistic legacy too.
5. Either way, he’s definitely thinking about his age. At the Bowl, two video screens on either side of the stage showed fixed live shots of Gabrels and bassist Simon Gallup, but they never once flashed a close-up of Smith, which suggested that, like so many aging rock stars, the guy has grown sensitive about his appearance.
Then again, no sense of vanity stopped Smith from doing a little dance — and triggering an immediate wave of cheers — when the inspiration struck during “Lullaby.”