Robert Smith talked less and sang more during The Cure's set at the Santa Barbara Bowl.
Paul Wellman

“You didn’t come to hear me talk,” Cure frontman Robert Smith said an hour into their driving set, in a roundabout apology for not chatting or introducing tunes. But the crowd didn’t come to hear him talk, they came to hear the band rock. And rock they did, amping up the energy as the sun sank. The darker it got, the more the synergy between the crowd and band took off. After all, Smith hardly looks like he spends much time in the sun.

Wherever he spends his time, he has certainly created one of the most enduring new wave, goth bands whose current tour and new single “The Only One” prove the band’s long-time appeal. Even after 30 years, they’ve kept the same sound (sans synthesizers at the moment) that won them fans in the beginning. Smith’s iconic voice maintains its familiarity-somewhere between a croon and a melodic version of a cat’s howl. Without synthesizers, they’re all about drums, guitars, and a bass. It worked and it rocked; it was just like heaven.

During the past 30 years, members of the band have rotated around Smith’s vocals and guitar. On this tour, bassist Simon Gallup, who’s been on every album and tour since ’79, riffed away with drummer Jason Cooper and guitarist Porl Thompson, one of The Cure’s original members, who strutted onstage in impossibly statuesque bright red high-heeled boots.

The four were two hours into their set before they paused at all. “Enduring” could be used to describe not only their appeal, but Smith’s voice and the band’s musicianship. As they segued between old favorites and new tunes, extended guitar solos created their own dance mixes, whether they’re extolling the virtues of lime green or lamenting the best-laid plans. The newer songs certainly possessed The Cure’s edge; the crowd erupted for the greatest hits, such as “Fascination Street,” “Killing an Arab,” and “Boys Don’t Cry.” Another fave, “The Lovecats,” opened the first encore. Then, at nearly 9:55 p.m., Smith spoke again-“Do we still have time?”-before launching into “A Forest” and ending with, “Thank you. See you again.” We hope.


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