Robert Smith stood there, pallid, haggard and moody - and, hell, that was in 1980.
Last night at Vector Arena in Auckland he churned out a massive overkill of songs, said the occasional “thang-kew” and by 10.20pm the fortysomething audience were thinking about finding taxis home in time to get back to the baby sitter.
Smith should stop singing such long sets, although why the audience stuck it out was because he hadn’t sung his early hits. He and his exceptionally talented band of a bassist who prowled like an anorexic Stray Cat with dowager’s hump, a guitarist dressed like an architect in designer-fashionable black, and the obligatory brilliant drummer with a bouffant hairdo deserve a shorter, more intimate show.
And they'll deliver that when they doubtless release a live album.
A declaration early on: I adore Robert Smith and the Cure’s songs and think he should get the Nobel Prize. All the best songs he ever wrote I still listen to, cherish and think are brilliant. He didn't sing any tonight.
Smith just stood there, with panda make-up and pigeon toed he looked like Ricky Gervais in a fright wig.
The fourth song, or maybe the fifth -- they all sounded the same as he declaimed loudly and with help from the echo-heavy sound system -- was something which wailed “I love you“. Oh, please, no. Goths should keep their sex lives to themselves.
The crowd wanted to join in the chorus but the concrete bunker that is Vector killed any kind of audience support.
Smith played guitar and the crowd cheered. Once he used to bite off short and sharp lines. Now it is all power chords, for effect.
He had a strange stand and an odd, lost look. He reminds you of somebody. Then, recognition: he’s that
fat kid you ridiculed in school. He even has the kind of little weepy look that fatboy suffered after you’d dunked him in the dunny.
To my misfortune I was sitting behind of a group who were obviously on a night out from West Auckland. "Mike" had a spliff in his mouth unlit -- until Boys Don’t Cry. His Westie mate kept texting and using his phone camera through all the songs.
The eighth song was another one about “I love you” delivered in a plaintive loud wail. No! It wasn't any good back then, and hardly deserves revival now.
The odd "Killing An Arab” was called out: its like the benediction phase in a Mass. You have to say something, anything.
Fortysomething shaven head guys around me, all with the look of Grey Lynn internet businesses, played Goths and made devil horn signs, or rocked gently in their seats. Somebody yelled out "Killing An Arab" again. Some people stood up for a song or two, then sat down again and rocked quietly.
Three Imaginary Boys was trotted out. Of all his efforts during the evening that was the best. It sounded liked he cared for the song, and had redeveloped it.
He had a manic grin singing Jumping Someone Else’s Train and off to the wing no incident occurred. No former Goths or girls from their fashion outlets tried to break security and kiss Smith. No one went anywhere near him.
The low point came with some piece of churning art rock from the master. People were talking loudly: even the Westie with the cellphone started to get bored, although I am sure he could have been usefully employed at Henderson Mall. It was like watching the second half of the test with the All Blacks up 60 points.
By 10.30pm the Cure were off the stage for the ritual pleading encore. The house lights were not on, of course, and it was just to let the Old Bugger go to his own men's room and then return to sing all the hits people had actually been waiting for. By 11pm and a numbing 27 songs later, it was over. Almost mercifully.
The audience was an embarrassment to be with. They were so settled into middle-age as fortysomethings they long ago gave up on the Goth revolution; they're comparing phone cameras and worrying about the sitter and how they could get a cab home.
They were not into endless youth: St John's were on hand not for drug overdoes, but in case the odd prostate gland gave out. At Vector tonight there was a real prospect of multiple death - from middle age complacency.
Somehow I missed the Goth revolution when I went off somewhere; now that I am back and looking at the folks around me. Well, pleased I missed it.
The t-shirts were expensive. Only the badges were cheap -- but who wears badges anymore?
At the enormous, well illuminated Vector -- which is remarkably hard to find from Britomart (go through the service lane beside Foodtown, and at Frozen goods turn up the next lane past the third checkout) - they warned the audience they could be searched for weapons.
Right. The Cure has to watch out for the fans with MP3 phones to record their shows and download to the Net. Lots of them.
Disclaimer: I actually loved the Cure -- although they banged on half an hour too long. But if you want to make better sense of this “review” you need to read this. I think it is serious. Mine ain’t.