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Nick Cave Commands the Stage Like No Other, and Seems to Only Be Getting Better With Age: A Concert Review
Back in September, a mere week after I went to another great concert (read my review of the Eagles here: Playing Like it Actually IS the Farewell Tour: The Eagles â€“ A Concert Review), I was lucky enough to attend another show, a concert I had been anticipating for months.
If you've followed the Soul of Rock 'n' Roll for a little bit now (or since the beginning) you might have caught a couple of my previous articles about Nick Cave. Right around the time I started writing for this site I discovered Grinderman (Cave's side project) and a short while later, Grinderman had grown on me and infected my brain, their debut album becoming THE album I was listening to for weeks. It's still in pretty heavy rotation to this day. Another bit of time passed and I sought out music from Cave's more well known band: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Before I knew it I was a Nick Cave fan and had rapidly added a number of Bad Seeds' albums to my collection, including their newest, released just this year. Fast forward a little more and I own every Bad Seeds album and I find myself considering Nick Cave up there with some of my favorite bands of all time.
Then, low and behold, they're coming to Chicago... as you'd expect, it didn't take long for me to get a ticket to that.
That ticket sat on my desk for months as I anxiously awaited the moment when I would finally see the great Mr. Cave in concert, Youtube clips of previous concerts only heightening the anticipation as there are some amazing clips out there of the Seeds, and Grinderman, in action.
When the show finally came, let's just say, I wasn't disappointed.
This show was a completely unique, intense and powerful experience. Taking place in a smallish, general admission venue, it was easily one of the best shows of this type I've seen... or at least the best I've seen in a while.
Check out the set list.
01 Hold on to Yourself
02 Dig Lazarus Dig
04 Weeping Song
05 Red Right Hand
06 Midnight Man
07 God is in the House
08 Nobody's Baby Now
09 The Mercy seat
12 Get ready for love
13 We call upon the author
14 Papa Won't Leave You, Henry
15 More News From Nowhere
16 Jesus of the Moon
17 Hard on for Love
18. Stagger Lee
Although, the set list may seem a little heavy on rockers (you Seeds fans might have noticed that), it isn't completely devoid of Cave's softer stuff. Stirring versions of "The Weeping Song", "God is in the House" and "Nobody's Baby Now" were highlights, but it was definitely the harder hitting tracks that really rang out. "We Call Upon the Author," "Papa Won't Leave You, Henry" and "Hard On For Love" were all beyond awesome in my opinion... actually in my opinion the whole set was awesome, to be honest. The early classic "Tupelo" stood out in my mind especially because they played a little more rockin' version than on the album. That isn't to say that the album version isn't intense, but they seemed to take it up a notch or two in this live setting, and it fit the song really well. Same is true for the more recent "Midnight Man". One of my favorite songs of the Seed's latest album, live it seems to come alive even more and hit just a little bit harder, getting the crowd moving and having fun.
By the time they reached the final song of the night, the anticipated "Stagger Lee", the audience was worked into a frenzy, as was the band, leaving everyone drained, but very much satisfied.
This was my first time seeing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, or Nick Cave live in any respect at all, so I don't really have anything to compare it to, but one of my fellow concert goers commented to me that this time around they seemed a little more rockin' than they'd seen before... past shows were a little mellower, I guess. I can see that being true as Cave has quite a range of material going all the way back to the early 80s, and some of his recent albums have been more rock oriented than some of his previous ones, while others are primarily ballads and lighter material. Still, songs like "Tupelo" and "Hard on for Love" (both from way back in the 80s), listening to them live, I can't see these songs being anything but rockers, even if they were done in mellower versions earlier on. It seems like even the ballads, when Cave plays them on stage with all the energy in the air, become even more electric and intense.
In fact, "intense" is a good word to describe the show in general, and Cave's music as well. His songs are always full bore, even in softer moments and that fact is only heightened in a live setting because of Nick's enormous presence on stage. When seeing him perform, it's easy to see why Cave became such a compelling... albeit primarily in the underground music scenes perhaps... character and front man. He exudes a very unique charisma on stage that is dark and commanding, but also fiery, passionate and soulful... like a prophet or priest giving a fire and brimstone style sermon, complete with flashes of lightning where appropriate.
As one of the friends I went to this show with told me afterwards... "He [Cave] owns, just owns everything he does"... and it's very true. Cave doesn't sing these songs lightly or timidly. He's coming straight from the soul, full of conviction, especially on songs like "The Mercy Seat". It's like he's right in your face saying "these are my songs, and I believe in them 100%"... giving him an intensity that is beyond almost any performer I've ever seen. I think that is what was most striking about this show... Cave's raw, even primal, charisma on stage... it's engrossing and contagious, feeding the crowds energy as much as drawing from it.
Combine that with a band that is obviously just as committed to the music as Cave, and sounds as dynamic and alive as they ever have... maybe even more so... and you have one killer performance. I was especially impressed by multi instrumentalist Warren Ellis, who plays like (and maybe looks a little like it too with his killer beard) he's possessed whether he's got a violin, or a mandocaster (like an electric 4 string mandolin) in his hands, creating some of the most unique and viscerally striking melodic textures. And lets not forget that Cave himself plays a mean set of keyboards and guitar as well.
I think the only real negative of the night was that the show was a little short. That's not a bad thing as it was non-stop intensity from the very first note, but there are so many songs I would have wanted to hear. I guess I shouldn't complain, any show is better than no show... and this was an AMAZING show.
I gotta say, I think Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are one of the best, most intense and vibrant rock bands I've ever seen. There's so many young bands out there that can't hold a candle to these guys and on the other end of the spectrum you have some amazing bands that have been around a while, and have slowed down a little, or have lost a touch of the creative edge. These guys though, just seem to be getting better and better the longer they go.
I can't wait to see what the next Bad Seeds album (or the next Grinderman album for that matter) will be like... and you can bet that I'll be keeping an eye out to see when they come back to Chicago, cause I'm gonna want to be there for that.
If you're a Nick Cave fan and you've never seen them... you owe it to yourself to go... maybe even a few times, as it's usually a pretty reasonably priced show. If you've never heard of these guys, but you like good visceral, noise, powerful and soulful rock and roll.... check them out... I don't think you'll be disappointed.