The Cure to the rescue
Band a big draw on the road
By Shanon Cook
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Curiosity may have killed the cat, but "Curiosa" could be just what the doctor ordered.
At least, that's what Robert Smith wants you to believe.
This summer's concert-tour season got off to a rocky -- as opposed to rocking -- start, with both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera canceling their jaunts, and dismal ticket sales snuffing alt-rock festival Lollapalooza.
So it's no surprise that Smith, the spidery-haired, thickly-eyelined front man of the world's most eminent Goth band, the Cure, is tickled pink that turnout has been strong for his North American blowout, Curiosa Festival 2004.
"It's been more than I've dreamed," Smith, 45, told CNN in a recent interview. "The crowd response has been unbelievable. It's the most fun I've had in a live environment in years."
Official ticket sales for the tour haven't been released yet, but the Cure's management says venues have been selling close to capacity.
Curiosa kicked off in Palm Beach, Florida, on July 24, with musical acts like Interpol, the Rapture, Mogwai and Muse on the bill. Smith said he scrutinized and researched each group, essentially handpicking the tour's line-up.
"I suppose it's a bit of a risk," said Smith. "I wanted this festival to be an experience for everyone involved, including the audience. I wanted everyone to get along and I knew that if I picked the bands... it would be a great atmosphere."
The touring festival follows the June release of The Cure's self-titled album, which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard album chart. It's the British band's 13th studio effort, and its first since 2000's Grammy-nominated "Bloodflowers."
CNN: Some of the bands you picked for Curiosa are heavily influenced by the Cure -- Interpol and the Rapture especially. When you go on stage do you feel all puffed up and act like "OK kids, this is how it's really done?"
ROBERT SMITH: No, that would be very presumptive. Every band on the bill I did pick and for different reasons. I love all of them and they all play really great music. It has actually made (the Cure) really rise to the occasion. To justify going on as the headline act after some of these bands is a pretty tough call, actually, because each one of them is worth going to see on their own. ... There's a certain edge of competition, but the camaraderie kind of overtakes the competitive edge.
CNN: Having been around since the late '70s and '80s, when your music largely appealed to angst-ridden teens, how has your audience changed?
SMITH: Well, it's still a really young crowd. ... Obviously there's a big attraction because of the other bands on the bill. They're all considerably younger than the Cure and they bring their own fans, but even when we play our own shows the audience has consistently remained a teenaged, early-20s demographic ... although there are older people as you get farther back, skulking in the shadows!
Smith: "My passion for what I do with the Cure is undiminished."
It's a real joy because I hate most artists who have gotten to my age and who have been going this long and always profess to have turned into adult-oriented rock artists. And they love it, but it's rubbish. If you ask anyone how they really felt, they'd say they much prefer to play to a younger crowd because you get so much more back from them. An older crowd would generally be doing that after a song (claps unenthusiastically), so that energy and enthusiasm is really good for us.
CNN: What does the Cure's live show involve these days?
SMITH: It depends a lot on where we are playing, who we're playing to, what day of the week it is, how I feel. ... We've got about 75 songs in our repertoire at the moment, so by the end of August we would have hopefully played all of them. By experience I know that Cure fans go to more than one Cure show -- there are always people who go to two or three, sometimes more -- so we tend to change the set around and play different songs.
CNN: The band's line-up has changed several times over the years. Are you in a good place at the moment?
SMITH: We pretty much have this perception of the Cure being ever-changing but we celebrate 10 years together this summer, so [this current tour is] a pretty good time for a band that constantly changes.
When you're in a young band for the first time, geographically you're in the same place and you tend to go out and socialize. You play more shows, you spend more time together. You're a unit. As you grow older inevitably you develop a life outside the band. I think it would be tragic if you didn't.
We all need separate lives but we meet up to do this and I think it actually keeps our enthusiasm for what we do high. It keeps our energy levels up, because if we were seeing each other all the time, going out all the time, we would be kind of tricking ourselves into believing that we are young. And we're not! The only time I feel genuinely young is when I am going out on stage and I can just forget about the rest of the world.
My passion for what I do with the Cure is undiminished, but it doesn't take up all of my life as it did 20 years ago.
CNN: Your loyal fans seem to appreciate that you have maintained your signature look, with the dark clothing, wiry hair and the black eyeliner. Why do you keep it up?
SMITH: You know, I've shaved my head three times in the last twenty years but no one really notices! This is how I feel comfortable. I overdo it when I am [preparing for a concert] because it makes me feel more dramatic when I go out on stage. I like to put a lot more on, I make my hair a bit wilder, but it's generally how I look most of the time. It's just how I am, really.
CNN: What advice would you give some of these bands on tour with you, if, like you, they want to achieve longevity in the music business?
SMITH: If you feel like it, do it. Just say yes.
Curiosa Festival 2004 wraps up in Sacramento, Californa, on August 29.