NEW YORK — With stone faces, the Cure sang keyboard-driven songs of darkness
and despair and Bush crashed manically through a set of
guitar rock in back-to-back television tapings Tuesday night during
which the two British bands previewed upcoming albums.
The concerts were taped in front of audiences of about 200 each at Sony
Studios on Manhattan's West Side for VH1's weekly series "Hard Rock
Live." The cable channel's publicists said air dates for the Cure and
Bush shows were not available.
As the title of the series implies, each band rocked hard in the studio,
which was dressed up to look like a concert hall. They also maintained a
light rapport with their crowds.
"They're changing the tape. Just like a real concert. According to Milli
Vanilli," the Cure's bushy-haired, brooding singer, Robert Smith, joked
during a break. He was referring to the '80s pop duo who were stripped
of a Grammy Award after the disclosure that they didn't sing on their
Bush's dapper frontman, Gavin Rossdale, told fans about taping another
television show in Germany a week earlier. "It was like a supermarket
there," he said. "It had no f---ing atmosphere. So you guys rock
compared to that."
The Cure, who helped make Goth-rock a household word in the 1980s with
their combination of dense pop melodies and electronic ambiance,
performed first. They're scheduled to release Bloodflowers, their
first studio album in three years, on Feb. 15.
They played several of the new songs, which Smith said made up "hardly
an album of pop hits." The songs, including "The Last Day of Summer,"
"Out of This World" and "Bloodflowers," were heavy on landscape, with
keyboard effects and feedback driving them. They were expansive, melodic
and dark. "You only get to stay here for so long," Smith sang during
"Out of This World." "You always have to go back to real life."
Levi Pervin, a 32-year-old fan from Manhattan, said the new material
reminded him of songs from the Cure's 1989 Disintegration, many
of which, like all of the new ones, used long musical introductions.
Smith has described the new album as the final part of a trilogy that
began with Pornography (1982) and continued on Disintegration.
"It's great they're doing stuff like that again," Pervin said. "It's
atmospheric, very dreamy. I can close my eyes and really sink into it."
While many in the crowd were VIPs, others were fans off the street.
Tickets for the shows were free, and admission was on a first-come,
Dressed in black shirts and pants, the members of the Cure smiled and
appeared relaxed only between songs. As they played, they were focused
and showed no emotion. They lightened up only as producers changed tape,
at one point playing an impromptu version of their hit "Boys Don't Cry"
Bush, on the other hand, were animated as they pounded out hard-rocking
guitar songs. Rossdale, in a form-fitting blue sweater and dyed,
bright red hair, jumped, spun, danced and implored fans to wave their
hands and jump along with him. He and his bandmates blasted through Bush's
catalog of radio hits, with soaring guitar riffs and swirls of guitar
The new songs they played, from their third studio album, The Science
of Things, due Tuesday, included the electro-rocker "The Chemicals
Between Us," the guitar-heavy "Warm Machine," and the ballad "40 Miles
From the Sun." On record, "The Chemicals Between Us" is a pop song with
drum programming. But live, with its stop-and-go guitar breaks, oddly
clopping drums and keyboard punch, it sounded more like Rush's "2112"
than a Bush song.
Bush played their older songs more conventionally. Rossdale and lead
guitarist Nigel Pulsford crashed their guitars in unison on the
excerpt). "Comedown" began with a minute-long bass solo by Dave
Parsons, during which Rossdale ran in place. Rossdale played a solo
version of "Glycerine," which, stripped of the recorded version's string
section, sounded loud and spooky.
The Cure's fans were respectfully contained, but not Bush's fans. Women
screamed between songs and during them, and continued even as producers
changed an audio reel.
Karen Dragotto, of Manhattan, said she's been a fan of Bush since they
became popular in the U.S. five years ago
"They came out of that whole alternative thing," she said. "But they
just sounded different. They weren't like Candlebox."
"Hard Rock Live" airs Saturday nights on VH1. An episode featuring rock
bands Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth airs on Saturday. Other upcoming shows
will feature the Cranberries, Bad Company and Meat Loaf, according to a
(SonicNet's parent company, Viacom, also owns VH1.)