Cure Revisit Gloomy Past On Album, On Tour

Band falls back on its musically dark days during kickoff for Bloodflowers promotional trek.

SAN FRANCISCO — British gloom-rock icons the Cure captivated

a packed Fillmore theater Thursday night with a performance that celebrated

the group's past.

The sold-out show was the first stop on a short U.S. promotional tour

behind the Cure's latest album, Bloodflowers. The LP, released

Tuesday, marks a return to the dark, densely layered sound that became

the band's trademark during its two-decade career.

Bloodflowers is the band's 13th studio album and is reportedly the

final installment in a trilogy that also includes 1982's Pornography

and 1989's Disintegration, both of which featured heavily in

Thursday night's set. The themes explored on Bloodflowers deal

with things ending and with reminiscing.

It seems the Cure have fallen back on the musically dark days that

earned them a loyal following, and the crowd couldn't have been more

delighted.

Bathed in blood-red light, the band — singer/songwriter and lead

guitarist Robert Smith, bassist Simon Gallup, guitarist Perry Bamonte,

keyboardist Roger O'Donnell and drummer Jason Cooper — began the

evening with the gentle, melodic album opener "Out of This World," during

which Smith crooned, "We look back at it all as I know we would. ...

I know we have to go/ I realize we only get to stay so long."

O'Donnell seemed to thoroughly enjoy the music, closing his eyes and

swaying back and forth in time and smiling. Smith, clad in his

requisite black button-down shirt and pants, with black eye shadow and

tousled black hair, serenely strummed his guitar center-stage during

most of the set, staring down or out over the crowd with a placid smile.

But when it came time for heavier songs such as the epic "Watching Me

Fall" (RealAudio

excerpt), from the new album, or the powerful, bass-driven

"Fascination Street" (RealAudio

excerpt), from Disintegration, Smith came to life, running

his hands through his hair, wiggling his hips, spitting out the words

and showing off his guitar mastery as the intensity of the songs increased.

Both songs proved Smith's distinctive voice is still in top form, and

he had no trouble belting out the high, wailing notes.

While Bloodflowers was fairly represented, the performance seemed

more about the past. The new material flowed seamlessly into the old,

reaching back to 1980 for the live staple "A Forest" (RealAudio

excerpt), from Seventeen Seconds.

Another Disintegration track, "Prayers for Rain," with Smith's impassioned wailing, was more forceful and less atmospheric than the recorded version.

The increasingly urgent "One Hundred Years" (RealAudio

excerpt), from Pornography, illustrated more of the Cure's

patented searing guitars and ominous lyrics, painting images of "Creeping

up the stairs in the dark/ Waiting for the deathblow."

The new album's most upbeat song, "Maybe Someday" (RealAudio

excerpt), gave way to the jangly "From the Edge of the Deep

Green Sea," off Wish (1992), which melted into the sensuous "If

Only Tonight We Could Sleep," from Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (1987).

The crowd went wild for the encores — "A Strange Day," the pounding

"The Figurehead," "A Forest" and the dynamic title track to

Disintegration, which closed the show.

"The Cure that I've loved since I was a kid is back," Karen Inna, 24,

of Berkeley, said. "They're one of the greatest live bands around, and

the new album is amazing, so tonight was just what I wanted to hear."

Zip Howser, 32, of Castro Valley, said, "I thought it was killer, and I

don't even like them."

The Cure will play five more dates as part of the Bloodflowers

outing and will return to the States in May for a full-fledged

tour.