Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cave > Carcass > Cave

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds / Red Sparowes
The Warfield, San Francisco
September 19, 2008

Awhile back, Umlaut had a mini-obsession with Red Sparowes, so it was cool they were given the opening slot on 3 of Cave & The Bad Seeds' California shows... and I was surprised how well they were received by the partisan Cave crowd. Nice.

As we waited for Cave to arrive onstage, Umlaut passed the time recreating the Kennedy Assasination with himself as Lee Harvey Oswald in "The Book Depository" (the Lower Loge section of the balcony) and Umlaut friend Raymond as Kennedy in "The Limo" (the photo pit). The role of Oswald's Carcano rifle was played by my cell phone... I guess you had to have been there AND been as nerdy as us..

I believe this year marks the 20th Anniversary of when I started being fanatical about Nick Cave's songwriting... and I like the new album more than anything he's done in recent years... so I can't believe I'm saying this:

For the first time EVER, I was NOT impressed by Cave's performance.

Now, I know most other people who were at this show loved the performance... but to this Cave Geek he just seemed *off*... like he wasn't really in synch with the band and was working really hard to keep it together during practically every song. Also, it's interesting in both a good and bad way how the Bad Seeds are the Grinderseeds onstage, with the members who are in Grinderman with Nick segregated on stage left and the others on stage right; remember when the Bad Seeds were like a gang onstage? Me too.

Also, the fact that Nick now ties himself to the keyboard and guitar ala Grinderman has changed the whole dynamic of the Bad Seeds onstage... Especially since they're touring without James Johnston and, let's be honest, Nick doesn't really "play" guitar. He's like a little kid with his Telecaster onstage, hitting chords and doing leg kicks... which looks cool... but the music suffers IMO. The Bad Seeds need a "pro" guitarist up there.. and I say that 'cause I care..

Timo agreed with me about the performance... and I was so distraught about it afterwards that I actually told The Sheriff via text message that it was my least favorite Cave performance EVER.. Wow, right?

If you bought one of every Cave merch item you would have paid $165. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. We bailed before the encores and jetted the 1 mile to Van Ness Avenue in order to catch some of:

The Grand Ballroom, San Francisco
September 19, 2008

Parking karma was in full effect as Timo found parking only a block from the venue.

We rushed into the venue and my glasses immediately fogged up as we were hit by the wall of heat from the crowd and the lack of ventilation. METAL. A minute later, Carcass slammed into their final song ('Heartwork'). METAL. Timo and I had at least caught a full song by the legends. In hindsight, given my disappointment with Cave, I should have chosen Metal over Cave on this night... but then again the conditions inside The Grand would not have been not fun at all.

If you bought one of every Carcass merch item you would have paid $260. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. Timo and I retired to Sparkey's for our semi-ritualistic post-gig meal; I had the Umlaut Special of course (2 egg breakfast and a beer). Yes, I know Sparkey's is what you do when you're 20-something, but it's better than the Gangsta Denny's in Japantown... Plus, I almost laughed out loud watching the young gay man in a nearby booth sitting with his eyes closed as if in a dream and singing along to the Abba and Wham! songs playing on the jukebox.. You go, girl!

24 hours later it was:

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds / Red Sparowes
The Warfield, San Francisco
September 20, 2008

Prior to the show the Umlaut Nation convened at The Irish Bank for a pre-show dinner... and just after we ordered our drinks I realized I'd left the Cave tickets AT HOME... A ROOKIE MISTAKE of the highest order.. Wow.. How embarrassing.

So, while everyone graciously hung out, I had to run back to Casa de Umlaut.. which took around 50 minutes. THANKS to Skychick, Lori, Timo, Teri, and Chris for not hitting me with a chair upon my return.. Thank Dog I found out about my gaffe early enough so I got back in time for everyone to eat, drink, and socialize... and the waitress got caught up in the drama as well, so she was tipped generously of course... AND we made it to The Warfield just as Red Sparowes were starting their set.. So, No harm > No foul, right?

Tonight's show was MUCH better than the previous night! I also wasn't as bothered by Nick being tethered to the keyboard and guitar, maybe because I was expecting it now... and when he was sans instruments he worked the stage better than he has in years, going to the lip of the stage as often as possible, etc.

Oddly, I liked the new songs more than the old classics.. Highlights: 'We Call Upon The Author', 'Midnight Man', 'Today's Lesson', and 'More News From Nowhere'... The new stuff has a groove that doesn't exist in most of Nick's older material, dyaknowwhatimean?

So, remember when I said earlier how I was REALLY bummed after the Friday show... How *off* Cave seemed to be with the Bad Seeds and how he seemed to be working hard just to keep it together? Well, several other longtime fans agreed with me... and after this show I learned that evidently there had been sound problems onstage during Friday's show and additional equipment had been brought in for the 2nd night to remedy it.. SEE! I WASN'T CRAZY!

Trivia: Nick's show were the first concerts at The Warfield since its recent renovation and sound system upgrade.

Oh yeah, hasn't Warren Ellis' transformation in recent years into the Mad Scientist / Mountain Man been trippy as all hell? Remember when Dirty Three first visited America in 1995 and he was simply the low key guy with the violin wearing an AC/DC shirt and jeans? Me too... Now he resembles a homeless mad scientist onstage behind his bank of effects, Fender Mandocasters, and (thankfully) his violin. Shine on, you crazy diamond!

Scorecard: According to the Umlaut Archives, this was my 14th time seeing Nick Cave (including solo and Grinderman) and my 63rd visit to The Warfield dating back to the early-80's. Yes, I keep score... it's on an Excel spreadsheet... I think it's about 90% accurate documenting every concert I've attended since losing my gig cherry in 1978. The Geeks shall inherit The Earth.

Members of Neurosis who stopped to talk to me = 1 (Dave Ed). On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. It tripped me out that it had been a bit over TEN YEARS (!) to the day since this Cave experience (Highkat!):

I still miss Blixa in the lineup.. There.. I said it.