- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Call it a pint-size Lollapalooza or an Ozzfest for the alternative-rock crowd. The Cure’s eight-band, two-stage Curiosa Festival pulled into the Merriweather Post Pavilion on Friday to play to a near-sold-out crowd.

For this two-month music carnival, the Cure has followed Ozzy Osbourne’s lucrative formula — hire opening acts that have obviously been influenced by your own work, and thus reach not only your fans but also theirs.

The succession of warm-up acts served as delectable appetizers to the evening’s main course, each offering small tastes of their own variation on Cure-influenced rock, with the exception of Melissa Auf der Maur, whose hard-rock anthems were incongruous in this lineup, if still enjoyable.

The most heavily indebted to the headliners was the hipster New York quartet the Rapture. In a quick 30 minutes, the band ripped through seven cowbell-driven dance-rock tracks from its major-label debut, “Echoes.” The highly original use of a cowbell by this otherwise instrumentally challenged band led more than one person to scream, “I need more cowbell.”

The Rapture’s opening song, “Olio,” showcased guitarist Luke Jenner’s vocals, which so eerily echoed those of his idol Robert Smith that many were left craning to see if the Cure frontman himself was somewhere on the stage contributing backup vocals.

Shortly after nightfall, the mope-rock legends themselves took the stage with — in typical Cure fashion — a nearly three-minute synthesizer intro. After a slow creep across the stage, Mr. Smith, with his inevitable blackened eyes, red lips and gravity-defying teased hair, finally took the microphone for the opening hit, “Plainsong.”

From a repertoire of well over 100 songs, the band culled a balanced mix of the old (“Love Song”), the new (“The End of the World”) hits (“Boys Don’t Cry”) and more obscure tracks such as “Why Can’t I Be You?” Accompanying the band’s two-hour set was a stage-size video screen flashing ocean scenes and psychedelic graphics.

Offering little more than a mumbled “thank you” after each song during the main set, Mr. Smith lightened up — for him — for the two encores, bantering with fans in the front. Before strumming the opening to one of the Cure’s biggest hits, “Friday I’m In Love,” he even joked, “We don’t get to play this song much.”

Though rumors persist that this album and tour are it for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame band, Mr. Smith and company looked far too happy playing together to believe them.


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