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