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Riot Fest 2014: The Cure, Flaming Lips And Death From Above 1979 Dominate Toronto Day 1

Riot Fest

The more things change the more The Cure stays the same.

The British rock outfit led by Robert Smith might have a different lineup than that of their glory years but still impress for the most part. Such was the case Saturday evening at Toronto's muddy Downsview Park during the roughly two-hour headlining set. Or what The Cure might call an early night.

Although the maximum capacity was just over 42,000, perhaps half that number stuck around as The Cure began their set with “Shake Dog Shake.” Here Smith exemplified part of the band's magic, sounding basically the same vocally as he did when the tune was released three decades prior.

Meanwhile, guitarist Reeves Gabrels who replaced Porl Thompson in 2012 proved to be a deft compliment to Smith's own guitar work at times. The Cure's mixture of hits such as “Just Like Heaven” and the tender “Pictures Of You” with deeper cuts like “Lullaby” and “Want” made for a strong but not truly amazing show.

Review continues after slideshow

Circa Survive

Riot Fest 2014

Besides The Cure, Riot Fest proved to be a rather odd mishmash of bands beyond their Warped Tour prime (New Found Glory, Alkaline Trio) along with established rock acts such as Paul Weller and The Flaming Lips. In fact, the latter two's appearance evoked images of previous concerts on Toronto Island that went wrong for different reasons.

As for The Flaming Lips (who played a mere 25 minutes back in 2006 on Toronto Island during the Virgin Fest due to delays running into a curfew) they provided the day's spectacle. Whether it was the giant props used (dancing mushrooms and aliens) or the mounds of confetti they shot from cannons throughout, singer Wayne Coyne made their hour-long slot a memorable one.

Coyne (who went into the audience using his obligatory orb) also tossed a giant inflatable “Fuck Yeah Riot Fest” sign into the crowd. “The Golden Path” was an uplifting, Arcade Fire-esque affair while the closing cover of The Beatles' “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” was ridiculously bombastic. Think of “A Day In The Life” with its wall of sound coda over six minutes and you get the idea.

Meanwhile, Paul Weller came on about 10 minutes past his start time but ran through a solid batch of solo hits including “Peacock Suit” and “From The Floorboards Up.” In 2008, Weller emerged onstage seconds after a deranged fan pushed Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher during the Virgin Festival and injured Liam's brother. Fortunately Weller didn't have to deal with any lunatic on this evening.

Death From Above 1979 spent their third Toronto show this week highlighting their new record "The Physical World." The duo deserved a far bigger, better reception than they received thanks to “Cheap Talk,” “Trainwreck 1979” and the fist-pumping “Virgins” which all soared. The tandem of Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler also nailed “Gemini” which Grainger dedicated to his wife to celebrate the couple's fifth wedding anniversary.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was how well AWOLNATION went over. The Los Angeles group melded the finest moments of nu metal and industrial with a perky, bouncy dance feel during “Not Your Fault” and “Sail.” Prior to that Afghan Whigs tore through a hefty chunk from Do To The Beast with flair highlighted by the cocksure opener “Parked Inside” and “Algiers,” the latter Dulli quipped went into Neil Young and Crazy Horse territory. And Rumblebucket early in the day created a bubbly aerobic workout with its fun dance-pop feel.

Riot Fest continues on Sunday with City And Colour closing the show after performances by The National, The New Pornographers, Metric, Stars and Bob Mould.

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