At Cure’s Curiosa Fest, Stiffness, Old Hits, Inappropriate Black Suits Abound

Cure roll out string of old favorites after some initial improvisation drove away non-diehards.

NEW YORK — The Cure can’t be blamed for catering to their diehards. After all, it’s thanks to their passionate devotion that the band that has kept active for most of its 25-year career.

But while many of the fans up front reveled in the improvisational guitar solos and extended versions of the non-single songs that inspired the other bands on the Curiosa festival — most notably the Rapture, Interpol and Muse — the musical histrionics were lost on the casual fans, many of whom began their exodus when the show’s early momentum slowed following the singles “Fascination Street” and “High.”

If they had only waited through a few more songs, however, the early exiters would have gotten the greatest-hits set that they had hoped for.

“Love Song,” off 1989′s Disintegration, got the party started and was easily the most well-received offering of the Cure’s nearly two-hour set. Any fatigue from the muggy, 85-degree daytime temperature seemed to temporarily dissipate through the sing-and-dance-along flood of “In Between Days” (off 1985′s The Head on the Door), “Just Like Heaven” (1987′s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me) and “Pictures of You” (1989′s Disintegration). After the onslaught, the elated masses were left wondering when to expect other hits “Friday I’m In Love” (never) and the Cure’s signature tune, “Boys Don’t Cry” (the end of the second encore).

Frontman Robert Smith kept to himself throughout much of the set, stepping away from the mic to rock gently with his head down, moves that made for a less-than-engaging stage show. Luckily the props, light show and a large video screen that flashed alternating images of abstract Middle East designs, magnified insects and full moons made up for the lack of visual allure.

The lone organic attraction, however, was bassist Simon Gallup. Compared to Smith and his other stiff bandmates, Gallup was a dance machine on par with the most fervent in the crowd. Shuffling his feet and throttling the neck of his instrument, he energetically rode the songs’ weaving bass lines that are responsible for the Cure’s grooviness, even if they are often overlooked in favor of Smith’s gloomy lyrics, uppity hairdo and penchant for wearing black.

Despite being the festival anomaly, Thursday managed to draw a sizable pre-dinner crowd to the second stage with their emotionally wrought metal. They were followed by Muse, who launched into their second-stage performance just as the sun had set to contrast the swirling light show that complemented their fleet-fingered Brit rock.

While the Rapture, the band most obviously affected by the Cure, opted for comfort as they dug into their cowbell-driven dance rock wearing jeans and T-shirts, making them indistinguishable from any other messy-haired concertgoer, fellow NYC hipsters Interpol disturbingly donned black suits in the sweltering afternoon heat. During their set of ultra-cool mod rock, composed of tracks from 2002′s Turn on the Bright Lights and their forthcoming Antics, the band somehow avoided passing out from heatstroke.

Former Hole/ Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur led her quintet Auf Der Maur wearing an olive green miniskirt and knee-high boots. She was all swinging hips and red hair as she proffered the sprawling, unconventional rock songs that comprise her self-titled debut album. At the close of her mid-afternoon set, she thanked the Cure for having them, and commented that Curiosa was “the most romantic tour of the summer.”

Glaswegian rockers Mogwai opened the main stage with walls of thick, droning noise and feedback, which made for a disorienting introduction to what amounted to a laid-back day that offered something for everyone.

For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports .