Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds @ the Hollywood Bowl (9/17/08)

I have a little notebook.  In that little notebook, I write out lists of books I’d like to read or movies I’d like to check out from the library.  Also included in this little notebook is my Top Ten Concerts to See list.  Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds have been on that list for a long time.  In fact, they were in the top spot.  Well, I’m happy to say that I finally got to see them.  It’s time to update my list.  But first, here are some thoughts on the Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds live experience.

The Bad Seeds walked out and you could hear a collective hush go through all the black-clad tattooed hipsters in the audience.  It was the sound of people realizing they’re not even half as cool as they thought they were.  Then Nick Cave strutted out and the hush turned into a roar.  Pardon the language, but he’s one cool (insert your ultimate swear here).  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who better epitomizes the concept of “cool”.

The set opener was “Night of the Lotus Eaters” from Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! It’s my least favorite song off the album, but it was a perfect opener.  The version they played was different from the album version.  Nick Cave didn’t even bother with most of the lyrics.  He just stormed back and forth across the stage screaming, “get ready to shield yourself”, over and over again while the Bad Seeds rocked harder and darker and louder than any band I’d ever seen before.  My reaction was two-fold: 1.) my jaw literally dropped, 2.) I fell into a fit of genuine laughter.  I can understand the jaw dropping; that’s a common reaction when faced with an awe-inspiring sight.  I don’t fully understand the laughter, though.

I’m not sure how they managed it, but the second song of the night, “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”, somehow managed to rock even harder and darker and louder than the first.  It was almost scary.  I’m writing this post three days after the concert, and I can honestly say that I still have this song stuck in my head.  I was singing it in the grocery store yesterday.  “I want you to dig!”  I got some looks.

The Bad Seeds pounded hell from “Tupelo” and “Red Right Hand”, and then Nick Cave tried to take it down a notch with “Into My Arms”.  He played piano, but the Bad Seeds weren’t having any of it.  They barely quieted down for what is probably the most tender song in Nick Cave’s entire oeuvre.  The bass was particularly overwhelming.  I’m not saying they ruined the song, but it would’ve been better if the band had gone for a water break.

The sweet and tender portion of the show lasted one song.  They finished up “Into My Arms” and then tore into the most recent single from Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, “Midnight Man”.  I’m a fan of the song, but it sort of paled in comparison to the next two songs played, both of which were released as singles in the late 80s.  The first of these two was “The Mercy Seat”; the second was “Deanna”.  I was particularly fond of “Deanna”.  It’s almost poppy.  Of course, it features lyrics like these:

We discuss the murder plan
We discuss murder and the murder act
Murder takes the wheel of your Cadillac
And death climbs in the back

Still, it sounds poppy.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds revisited their most recent album with “Moonland”, and then followed it with one of my personal highlights from the evening, “The Ship Song”.  I have it on The Best of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds compilation, but I haven’t listened to that CD in a long time, so it was only slightly familiar to me.  It’s a beautiful song, though.  It’s incredible what Nick Cave can do with a ballad.

Of course, the Bad Seeds will only hold back for so long.  They didn’t overwhelm “The Ship Song” like they did with “Into My Arms”, but I could tell they wanted to rock out.  That’s exactly what they did on the next song, the hands down highlight of the night, “We Call Upon the Author”.  This one was all about Warren Ellis.  Every time Nick Cave sang the line, “Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix,” Warren hit up some crazy instrument that broke everything down and started spitting out beats.  Yes, beats!  At a Nick Cave concert!  The lights also went crazy during the breakdown.  It was flat-out wild.  Years from now when I think back on this concert, I’m going to remember “We Call Upon the Author”.

(Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Warren Ellis spent much of “We Call Upon the Author” humping the air and the floor and anything anywhere near his pelvis.  Have you ever seen a man with a foot long beard and a fancy suit air humping?  It’s a sight to see, I’ll tell you that.)

As often happens for me, my personal highlights are usually followed by my personal “lowlights”.  The next song was “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry” from 1992’s Henry’s Dream.  I wasn’t familiar with the song and don’t think I’ll bother tracking it down.  It didn’t do anything for me.  It was followed by another song I didn’t know.  It was called “Hard On For Love” and was originally released on a 1986 EP called Your Funeral…My Trial.  I’m definitely going to need a copy of that one.  I really want to sing along with these lyrics:

But they can stone me with stones I don’t care
Just as long as I can get to kiss
Those gypsy lips! Gypsy lips!
My aim is to hit this Miss
And I’m moving in (I’m moving in)
Coming at her like Lazarus from above
Hard on for love hard on for love

Speaking of the deliciously vulgar, the show ended with a rude and crude version of “Stagger Lee”.  How rude and crude?  Well, it featured the word “motherfucker” at least 8 times.  Ah Nick Cave, you’re my hero.

As always, here’s the setlist for your perusal:

Setlist: Night of the Lotus Eaters/Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!/Tupelo/Red Right Hand/Into My Arms/Midnight Man/The Mercy Seat/Deanna/Moonland/The Ship Song/We Call Upon the Author/Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry/Hard On For Love/Stagger Lee

As I mentioned at the beginning of this long, rambling review, it’s time to update my Top Ten Concerts to See list.  Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I’m really going to bother with it anymore.  Sure, there are still musicians I haven’t seen that I’d like to see, but what’s the point?  None of them are going to be able to complete with the intensity of the Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds live experience.  Even if I were able to find a performer that could compete with Nick Cave, I seriously doubt they’d bring such high quality openers as Cat Power and Spiritualized.  Why bother?

The Hollywood Bowl MarqueeCat Power setlistSpiritualized setlistNick Cave & the Bad Seeds setlistAll together? Are you serious?

Oh crap, it just occurred to me that I wrote my entire review without once using the words “fire & brimstone”.

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29 Responses to Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds @ the Hollywood Bowl (9/17/08)

  1. crankypants says:

    I must have sensed you posted this because i got realllly bored with cleaning and had to come upstairs and turn this thing on (I WAS gonna read…)
    You don't have to track down Papa Won't Leave You, Henry. Here it is. I love that song, it's my 2nd fave on that album after I Had A Dream, Joe (which is the song that actually hooked me on Nick Cave back in 1992 I guess it was). Maybe they played a different version.
    Wow, wow, wow. That is a great setlist, I've been listening to a bunch of them, lately, The Ship Song, Oh Deanna! Into My Arms, The Mercy Seat (omg I might explode if they play that one)….
    No encore?
    Thank you thank you it was worth the wait.

  2. M-----l says:

    I hate to admit it, but the earliest Nick Cave album I have is The Boatman's Call from 1997. I've heard random singles from earlier in his career, but I haven't tracked down any of the albums. I'm thinking about picking up Murder Ballads and then maybe working backwards from there. I'm also interested in the B-Sides & Rarities collection.Regarding the encore, the bands were working with a strict curfew. Cat Power and Spiritualized each got 45 minutes. Nick Cave only got 75. He mentioned that up on stage and said he wasn't going to bother leaving the stage just to return a minute later. I'm not sure what the format will be when you see him, but I'd expect that you'll get a lot more Nick Cave than I got.Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

  3. crankypants says:

    Well, maybe he needs to quit touring with TWO bands, sheesh. At least my concert they are unknowns (to me) so maybe they won't play too long. I don't know what kind of a curfew they have there, if any.
    I just got the Boatman's Call a couple of weeks ago along with Tender Pray and No More Shall We Part. I had Henry's Dream for a while, I think maybe 1993, who knows how long it was from when I heard it at my friend's apartment in NYC till I bought it but I've had that for a while. Others I'd pick up at block party sales where I used to live. The CD store on the boardwalk would sell them 3/$20 or 3/$10 so I picked up a lot of my CDs that one weekend of the year –crap I think it's the same weekend I'm going to Chicago…anyway, for years the only ones I had were Henry's Dream, Murder Ballads (which I think is the one that REALLY made me like him) The Good Son and The First Born Is Dead–at least, I think I have that one. I rarely listened to those last 2, but I played the Good Son a bunch in my car last week and like it more now. A couple months ago I got Let Love In. and I think that's all I have.
    I swear I have the firstborn is dead, I just can't find it.
    Murder Ballads has Stagger Lee, and it's pretty rude & crude on there too.

  4. M-----l says:

    You don't have to track down Papa Won't Leave You, Henry. Here it is.Hey, that is a good song. Sometimes I just don't like to hear things
    live that I'm not familiar with. I kept thinking while they were playing it that I'd much rather be
    hearing "Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl)". I really wanted to hear that
    one.I think my first (non-comp) Nick Cave album was No More Shall We Part. It's still my favorite…although Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus is a close second. It looks our combined collections feature just about the complete Nick Cave discography. There's very little overlap, too. Don't you have the new one? I think I remember you posting a song or two from it.But anyway, the show I saw was a one-off. He's not actually touring with Cat Power and Spiritualized. I'd be willing to bet he won't let the Pink Monkeys or whoever cut into his set.

  5. crankypants says:

    I do have the new one, I realized that after i cliked 'post'. I was only thinking of the ones I'd purchased, my friend sent me a copy of it (possibly before it was released, even) as well as the Grinderman one, both of which I played the hell out of during the 2300 miles I drove throughout SW Texas and NM in April. I popped D!!!LD!!! into my car player this week and it reminded me of that trip which was a nice thing. I have to get that Abbatoir Blues one.
    I think I have 3 songs from Murder Ballads and at least 3 from Henry's Dream on my Vox, tagged 'nick cave' or nick cave & the bad seeds'I may have more that eluded tags.
    I think there are still tickets available for the show here, which I find pretty astonishing. No wonder he never comes here.

  6. crankypants says:

    Oh and I'm the same way about songs or bands I don't know, so if a song or band I don't know really makes an impression on me at a concert, that's something.

  7. mariser says:

    thanks for the review, M-. I am even more stoked for the Philly show.I hope they play We call upon the author at our show with the same ferocity.I really don't care for Papa Won't Leave You, Henry after hearing it a ½ dozen times, but that is one of the few songs I don't care for.

  8. cat says:

    Australians, what can I say, good at everything. I plan on having There She Goes, My Beautiful World played at my funeral. It is also an excellent song for running on the treadmill to.

  9. M-----l says:

    I usually try to skip opening acts and bands I'm not familiar with. I usually get sleepy when bands I know play unknown songs. I just like knowing what's going on onstage. I don't go to shows to find out about new bands or hear songs I don't know. I go to shows so I can mouth along with the words and people who don't know the words will think I'm cool. I'm shallow that way.(The one exception to this rule was when I accidentally showed up early for a Sleater-Kinney show and enjoyed the heck out of the opening act, a little band I'd never heard of called the White Stripes.)

  10. M-----l says:

    I am even more stoked for the Philly show.You and Cranky are going together, yes? That ought to be an enjoyable evening. I'd be willing to bet that you'll get to hear "We Call Upon the Author". Maybe I'm just saying this because I liked it so much, but the song felt like the centerpiece to the entire set…like maybe they'd worked on it a lot. I doubt they'd don't skip over it.

  11. M-----l says:

    "There She Goes, My Beautiful World" is one of my favorite Nick Cave songs. It's a very rare song that works in both a funeral home and a gym.By the way, I brought along my printout of the Hollywood Bowl from Papa's Slidebox. I got a few shots from the same vantage point. I'm a bit sick of Vox right now (it took a long time to write all three reviews), but I'll put the pictures up in the next couple days. Would it be alright if I posted your pic with mine, or would you rather I just include a link to yours?

  12. crankypants says:

    I used to be that way but now I go for the entire experience and don't let my ignorance interfere with my enjoyment. Of course I have much less in-depth knowledge of most bands I see than you do I'd say. and yes, Mariser & I are going together w00t!

  13. M-----l says:

    I was kidding about mouthing along to the words to trick people into thinking I'm cool. I usually prefer live music I know, though.

  14. cat says:

    yes please – post them both together on yours, whenever you're ready.

  15. mariser says:

    two weeks, two days, and 33 minutes. not that I'm counting or anything.I can't believe there are tickets still left for the Philly show. I know it's on a Tuesday, but c'mon!I bet that's why Pennsylvania gets the moniker "Pennsyltucky"

  16. crankypants says:

    sure you were kidding, just like you didn't park in a handicapped space. riiiiiight.

  17. Damn. You wrote the pants off that. I feel like I should pay you for reading it. I was like: dang!

  18. kitty says:

    Seeing them in Berlin this last Spring was one of The Quintessential Concerts of my life so far. He seemed very ANGRY when I saw them, and Warren Ellis looked like he'd been living on a mountain for a year and rolled around on the stage a lot. The energy was fantastic.

  19. Scott says:

    Ultimate swear…ultimate swear…
    Donkeyraping assmaster?
    Hmm…no…I'll have to think about that one some more.
    Great review. Personally, I'd like to hear them do "Supernaturally" live. Maybe they'll play it when I see them…um…one day, I hope.

  20. hotrod says:

    I've never seen him with the Bad Seeds, but I've seen the Dirty Three a few times. Warren Ellis has the oddest stage presence of any performer I've ever seen.Murder Ballads is awesome and you should buy it today. That's my favorite of Nick Cave oeuvre, and number two isn't close.

  21. M-----l says:

    Thank you. This one actually took a couple hours to write (if you can believe that), and it's nice to know you appreciated the extra effort. Feel free to send cash in the mail.

  22. M-----l says:

    Oh Scott, I didn't mean anything like that. I was hoping for something like "sonofabastard" or the word used at least eight times in "Stagger Lee".They didn't play anything off Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. I was a tiny bit disappointed as that's one of my favorites. I was especially hoping to hear someone (anyone) play "Breathless". Cat Power covered it on Jukebox and I thought she might play the song considering she was opening for the man who wrote it. Nope.

  23. M-----l says:

    Jim White, the drummer from the Dirty Three, was in Cat Power's band for this show. I don't think the third guy was anywhere to be seen, though.There's always a used copy of Murder Ballads at one of my music stores. It's been there for at least a year (or maybe they just keep getting copies in). I've picked it up a few times, but always end up putting it back because I don't like the cover art. I'll definitely buy it the next time I'm out that way.

  24. Yup. You have clearly set the bar for all future Nick Cave reviews. heh heh Wha??? You do NOT have Murder Ballads??? I think that I actually have a spare around here somewhere. (She goes off looking) And you WILL be getting some mail.

  25. M-----l says:

    I should just send you all my CDs and you should send me all yours. We could get this music exchange out of the way in one fell swoop.

  26. hotrod says:

    Jim White drummed for Chan when I saw her a year ago. I didn't think of it before now, but that might have something to do with her opening for Nick Cave. So how does the Spaceman fit in?

  27. M-----l says:

    I'm not sure what the connection between Spiritualized and Nick Cave was…perhaps their previous devotion to narcotics?

  28. Aubrey says:

    Please buy Murder Ballads. Please.
    This was a really passionate review – and:
    "It was the sound of people realizing they're not even half as cool as they thought they were."
    Great – and long overdue – line!

  29. M-----l says:

    It's hard to appear cool when there are Bad Seeds in the house. All the hipster-wear, tattoos, and $200 haircuts look feeble up against those guys.And yes, I'll get Murder Ballads.

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