The Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles, California
February 21, 2013
When it comes down to it, Nick Cave is my favorite songwriter; I've fanatically seen every U.S. Tour he's done since 1990. Nick is also the only music hero who I've followed over the years who I've stayed engaged with whatever he's doing. Tonight was one of only 4 shows worldwide (Berlin, Paris, London, and Los Angeles) with Nick & the Bad Seeds playing the new album Push The Sky Away in its entirety backed by additional musicians. On paper it looked weird and pretentious, but in person it was special. Needless to say, tickets to this intimate show (less than 1,500 capacity) sold out in literally a minute online.
According to the Umlaut Archives tonight was the 16th time I've seen Cave either with the Bad Seeds, solo, or with Grinderman. Prior to Nick and the Bad Seeds taking the stage they showed a 10 minute film about the making of the new album. It was just the right length so the people casually drinking didn't get bored and then once it was done it was only a short wait until the performance began. The show was being streamed live over The Internets so there were 2 large cameras next to the soundboard and another on a boom that swung out over the audience. Because of this the houselights were kept on for much of the set, which was a bit annoying... but only a bit.
The new album had only been released 3 days before this show, but I had an advance (leaked) copy weeks ago. However, I'd only listened to it once and the thing that stuck in my head was how Nick used "Wikipedia" in the lyrics of one of the new songs. So, this performance would be my *real* introduction to the new album.. which was kind of awesome. As the new album unfolded onstage I noticed that it wasn't Thomas Wydler on drums which was a bummer. For the newbies, Thomas has now been in the Bad Seeds the longest since Mick Harvey left several years ago... and evidently he is sitting out this tour due to health issues.
Anyway, the performance of the new album and its 9 songs was enrapturing... and having the element of including a string section, a couple of adult back up singers, and the children's choir from the local Silver Lake Youth Conservatory added to the sparkling performance. There were a couple of miscues and odd moments but that's to be expected during such a complex ensemble show that was only playing this set 4 times. Unlike most other shows that I find myself these days (Metal..), tonight was overpoweringly about the music and nothing else.
While the performance of the new album was very special, it was the second part of the night that acted like a reset to my burned out head. Umlaut is a jaded mofo... but when Nick uttered the line "I wanna tell you about a girl..." and they launched into 'From Her To Eternity' the people around me were figuratively splattered by my skull and brains symbolically exploding. Dude! It's the song that originally got me into Nick way back in the late-80's and he hasn't performed the song in ages. Wow. "She lives in Room 29..."
Over the next hour the night was filled with a run through of mostly classic older songs like 'Jack The Ripper', 'Red Right Hand', and the always infectious 'Deanna'. It made me smile to see Nick working the edge of the stage as he turned up his old timey preacher-like mode to engage the crowd. The only time my cranky old Nick Cave fan came to the surface was when the kids sang back up on 'The Ship Song'. I didn't like it. Sorry, kids. The night closed with another epic version of 'The Mercy Seat' and then 'Stagger Lee' slammed down the night perfectly. Name another song that has as many uses of "motherfucker" in it. None. Hopefully the young children of the Silver Lake Youth Conservatory were well on their way home so their virginal ears weren't assaulted by all of the "mofos" that Nick uttered... although maybe hearing them might have done them some good.
After following Nick for so long it's been disconcerting to me that the Bad Seeds have gone through so many changes in recent years after so many years of being Nick's constant gang. I still miss the Mick / Keef-like vibe that he and Blixa had onstage together and it's still kind of unnerving not to have Mick Harvey standing at stage right. However, having original Bad Seed member Barry Adamson on keyboards and percussion was an awesome addition... as was having Ed Kuepper of The Saints on guitar at stage right.. which was a nice nod to Nick's Australian roots. That was then and this is now.. and it's still great.
If you bought one of every Nick merch item you would have paid ZERO because he didn't have any for sale. He's a true artist. On the way back to the hotel, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. As I've grown burned out on much of what you would call "Metal" these days, it was awesome to have my constant old musical hero Nick Cave reminding me that I can still care about music.