Cure's Hauntingly Memorable Halloween Gig

Robert Smith and the men in black perform every single from 'Just Like Heaven' to 'High.'

NEW YORK -- Forget Christmas. The best time to see this wacky town

is on Halloween night. Especially a Halloween night that is filled with rock 'n'

roll from the Bowery to the Empire State Building.

As half a million people marched in the most insane collection of costumes for

the annual Halloween parade down Sixth Avenue, the reunited Jane's

Addiction suffered another "relapse" in Midtown, and the Cure brought their own

brand of costumed crazies to downtown's Irving Plaza.

Black lipstick was in heavy demand all over area. It was tough to

tell whether the fans awaiting the Cure's show were celebrating the holiday,

dressed for the band or if they just always look that way. Draped in black velvet,

with skulls and crosses hanging from necks and ears, on any other night in any

other town they'd be easily mistaken for the members of a cult.

Maybe this was the scene Al Jourgensen of Ministry had in mind when he

penned those lines "I dress this way just to keep them at bay, 'cause Halloween

is every day." Then again, Robert Smith says he never intended to develop a

brooding goth image.

The Cure is not goth, he told Addicted To Noise last month. Still, that's

not necessarily true of his fans, who appeared in dark clothing and pasty white

faces. Even Irving Plaza was swept up in the gothic spirit of the season, draping

skeletons and shiny metallic streamers from the rafters.

The Cure took the stage, kicking into two of their most popular rockers from

1987, "Why Can't I Be You" and "Just Like Heaven." Packed to the walls with

bodies swaying and surging, the only place to dance was up. It was a

celebration, not only of Halloween, but also of last week's release of the Cure's

second singles compilation, Galore, covering some of their best tracks

over last decade. Hard to believe, but the Cure's first single came out in late

1978: "Killing An Arab," backed with "10:15 Saturday Night," both on Staring

at the Sea their 1986 singles compilation.

On this night, leader Robert Smith drew almost exclusively from those two

greatest hits packages: 14 tunes from Galore and 10 from "Staring." In

general, the older the song, the better its reception.

In quick succession, he and his band delivered "Fascination Street" and

"Lullaby," and then a dreamy "High." A few more recent tunes, then it was time

for the oldies. When they began, 1983's "The Walk" or 1985's "In-Between

Days," fans danced in a frenzy, screaming like people possessed. In contrast,

they greeted "Mint Car" from the last album and "Wrong Number," the new track

on "Galore," more reservedly, with a smattering of applause and a polite listen.

Smith remains the sole charter member of the Cure, some 18 years into their

rock 'n' roll run. Known for his positively inconsolable lyrics in the early '80s,

he's cheered up remarkably well to carry the band into the '90s. But he still

dresses in black, Halloween night or not.

He wasn't the only darkly-clad Cure member. Besides Smith, Simon Gallup

provided the pounding melodic bass lines and Perry Bamonte, wearing his

trademark floppy hat, delivered the delightfully infectious guitar. Roger

O'Donnell sat in on keyboards to the right of Smith, and new drummer Jason

Cooper pounded away in the rear. All wore black.

The concert was broadcast live on the radio and on the World Wide Web, so

short was this tour (N.Y. and L.A. only) and so small was this club (1,000

capacity). For some reason, the broadcasters had asked Smith to keep the chat

to a minimum, so it wasn't until "A Letter To Elise" that he actually introduced a

song.

Later on, during the encores, he apologized for being so quiet all night. There

was no need. The people were there for the music and the very best of his

music is what he gave them.

"Pictures Of You" was perhaps the prettiest song of the night, prompting many

of the gathered to sway in unison to Smith cries of longing: "I've been looking so

long at these pictures of you that I almost believe that they're real." From there,

it was time to dance. The Cure broke into "Close To Me" then "Let's Go To Bed,"

two more gems from the early '80s. After one more song, Smith announced that

the band was taking a break for radio station identification.

Now here's the mark of a man that cares about his fans: While all the

radio stations announced their call letters, Smith grabbed an acoustic

guitar for a solo rendition of "Jumping Someone Else's Train." He could

have fetched a drink or taken a breather, but at this Halloween night show there

was to be no dead air. The show ended 20 minutes later with a pair of darker

tunes, the brooding rhythms of "A Forest," and a long and improvised "Forever,"

a Cure rarity available only on the 1984 live release Curiosity-Cure

Anomalies.

While the band ducked backstage for a minute or two, everybody was asking

each other what song that was, is it new, what's it's name?

Then the Cure returned for the first triplet of encores, "Friday I'm In Love,"

"Charlotte Sometimes," and "Boys Don't Cry." The bodies were bouncing off

one another by now, stopping only for a moment as the Cure walked off, then

walked on again to do a surprise "Catch," followed by "10:15 Saturday Night"

and the perfect closer "Killing An Arab."

You couldn't hear yourself think.

For two hours, the Cure had held everyone in their spell, packed into the small

black box of Irving Plaza. For two hours, the world was a song.

Color="#720418">[Mon., Nov. 3, 1997, 2:30 p.m. PST]