What's the sound of 35,000 people being alienated together?
That would be the Cure at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
Or, make that the Mo rose Bowl.
Cure-ator Robert Smith, the teen set's Guru of Glum, shuffled through the meditations on meaning, moaning and moping that have brought him to this incongruous stature wherein he and his fans get to find out en masse that their feeling of isolation and being different is exactly what makes them part of a crowd and not at all different.
By all logic, that should bring an end to the ritual--"Hey! We're not different. We're not alienated. We do fit in. We can all go home now content and satisfied."
But nope; they mope.
Increasingly, though, they dance and party too. Either that or the bubbly young fans, now at least as large in number as the Cure's loyal black-clad brigade, just don't get the depth of existential despair that fuels so much of the Cure's music.
The latter doesn't seem too unlikely, given the look of the fans that came to see the show. For the most part, no one would notice if the crowd just stayed on for a UCLA football game--give yellow pompons to the vampirish hard-core fans who live for, or at least live to act out, despair, and they could pass as Iowa fans.
It seemed even more wholesome than the last time the Cure came to town, three years ago at Dodger Stadium. For one thing, there was no food fight this time.
And Smith himself has lightened up, relatively speaking. Several newer songs carry an expansive and even (gulp) hopeful tone. He pointed out that evolution by following the cynical, fatalistic 1982 hit "Let's Go to Bed" with the fairly up-looking recent "Friday I'm in Love." Though he never put his doubts and fears to bed on Saturday (nor did he allow the flashy stage lighting to ever make him very visible, or should that be vulnerable?), he did vary the pace with dynamic and danceable numbers as well as atmospheric drones in a well-paced, hits-packed set.
The attendance for the show--which also included a short, amorphous set by English band the Cranes and more rousing, Neil Young/Replacements-derived grunge from Dinosaur Jr., neither of which seemed to make much of an impression on the crowd--represents a relatively low turnout for a facility that can hold more than 100,000.
But it could hint toward a future with more rock shows there, because those numbers put little stress on the surrounding, well-to-do Arroyo Seco neighborhoods, whose residents have in the past objected to concerts in the stadium. This is the first rock concert at the Pasadena facility since Depeche Mode in 1988, and only the second in 10 years. Dale Beland, president of the East Arroyo Residents Assn., said Sunday morning that there were few complaints about traffic and noise.
Although the promoters would certainly have liked a larger attendance (there were 50,000 at the Dodger Stadium show), they took advantage of the scaled-down crowd and smartly arranged the stage so that it split the stadium lengthwise, rather than setting up in an end zone as is the usual case in stadium concerts. The effect was to use just half the bowl, making it, in essence, a jumbo-sized amphitheater. This could well become a more common sight if a few bugs can be worked out, particularly dealing with the bottlenecks that occurred in the tunnels leading to the seats.
But before any future can be planned, the bowl and neighborhood will have to survive the Guns N' Roses/Metallica extravaganza planned for Aug. 22, with as many as 80,000 expected to attend.
That's right--get ready for the Axl Rose Bowl. . . .