The Cure : Devore Glen Helen Hyundai Pavilion

Today's bill sees a curious mix of rum '80s stagers...

Let’s get one thing straight here. California’s Inland Empire is not LA. It’s part of the ‘909’, a phone code prefix that’s become slang for SoCal’s druggy version of the Black Country. So when a reunited Duran Duran step on stage tonight at the annual KROQ’s Inland Invasion and Simon trills, “hello LA! We haven’t seen you in a while,” he’s actually sixty miles outside of tinsel town, in a place where – fact! – one out of every ten meth labs busted in the US since 1999 was based.

Sniff, sniff, snort. Ahem! Anyway, today’s bill sees a curious mix of rum ’80s stagers (who invited Berlin?) and a few of the new bands that they inspired mixing it up in the triple-digit heat. First, though, is Chris Carraba and Dashboard Confessional. Carraba’s rather generously been called a Morrissey in the making, but the chance of Moz saying, “this is one of my favorite songs,” before launching into Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ is about as likely as Courtney Love becoming a crochet instructor for the Girl Guides. Still, at least the stripey-tighted, smudgily made-up girls here (of which there are hundreds), can get their painfully-shy, brainy-but-troubled boy fix with Interpol. The New Yorkers sear the polluted air with an agitated anxiety, as swooning ensues over frontman Paul Banks’ big screen-projected stare.

As Hot Hot Heat, (ironic for a show in the desert) lead up to the double D, a bare chested man on generous quantities of alcohol, roars in our ear, “these guys are baaaaaddd,” meaning good, repeatedly. We already know and so do the other 64,498 punters here who slurp the Canadians up like a University student with a free pint.

Lest this not-so-charming man offers us more insights we head ‘round back, where Adrian ‘No Doubt’ Young, who earlier drummed with ’80s tribal-popsters Bow Wow Wow, sneaks NME stageside for Brum’s five are alive. ‘The Reflex’, ‘Rio’, ‘Friends of Mine’ and a ‘Notorious/We Are Family’ mix, coalesce into synth-pop bliss, even if thousands of pairs of frilly knickers stay buttoned up.

From panties to panting as a weathered-looking Robert Smith and The Cure take the stage. Tonight they’re reaffirming The Cure’s place in US muso history, as THE new wave goth-rock powerhouse of the ’80s, before anyone called anything alternative. The Smiths may be remembered more rosily, but stateside it was The Cure who stayed together long enough to sell out stadiums and who are still able to generate word-for-word singalongs from punters young enough to be Smith’s kids. Still, they trawl out all the hits (‘Let’s Go To Bed’, ‘High’, ‘In Between Days’), while old raccoon eyes sounds pretty much the same as he did back when Thatcher was in power, the Rubik’s cube was a popcult phenomenon and it was OK to wear legwarmers in public. because sometimes rock stars can grow old gracefully.

Jolie Lash