Currently in the midst of a North American tour that's found the legendary English alternative rock act delivering songs from across their four-decade career, with no two set lists the same night-after-night, it's not unusual for the band to play 30-plus songs over the course of an evening.
As the last major headlining act after a weekend that found most in attendance sweating Saturday away to the sounds of Jamie xx, ODESZA and Tame Impala, only the band's fervent faithful were on hand to witness the five-piece hit the stage, with more than half of the field in front entirely empty.
Not that either party seemed to mind the somewhat intimate setting; this night was designed for those who'd followed the band through thick and thin, with the first five songs consisting of tracks you wouldn't find on a greatest hits compilation, from The Head on the Door's "Kyoto Song," "A Night Like This" and "Push" to Wish's "Open," to 1983 single "The Walk." It might have felt like a bit of a slow start for the fair-weather fans beginning to trickle in.
Combined, throbbing bass from the nearby Big Top Stage, the first of many technical malfunctions and the sun (each member dressed in head-to-toe black — this is a band that belongs in the darkness) nearly brought the entire set to a halt. Leader Robert Smith looked frustrated, pausing at length in-between songs to talk with band members and crew about fading monitors and spotty speakers.
Still, they soldiered on, finally getting a number of festivalgoers seated on a nearby hill to their feet ten songs in with "Lovesong." Crowd favourite "Just Like Heaven" and choice cuts from Disintegration ("Lullaby," "Prayers for Rain") and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me ("The Perfect Girl," "If Only Tonight We Could Sleep") and even a track off 4:13 Dream (the still terrible "Sleep When I'm Dead") kept their attention, but an air of anxiety hung over the performance, with listeners hoping to hear a whole song through but expecting the speakers to give out again, or Reeves Gabrels' guitar set up to being rattling anew.
It wasn't until the band's third and final encore that they finally found their groove, locking into sprightly renditions of "Hot Hot Hot!!!," "Let's Go to Bed," "Close to Me" and "Why Can't I Be You?" before closing the night out the same way they do every show on this tour with classic single "Boys Don't Cry." Sadly, it was too little too late.
Before Robert Smith left the stage he promised next time they toured North America that Toronto would be the first stop. In any other situation, it would be a nice surprise. On Sunday night, it came off as more of a consolation.
Next time they're in town, don't be surprised if it isn't on a festival bill.