Friday, July 18, 2014

Old Friends

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
The Warfield, San Francisco
July 7 and 8, 2014

Some trivia:  These shows were Umlaut's 20th and 21st times seeing Nick Cave dating back to 1990.  It was also the 12th and 13th times I've seen him at The Warfield.  As I've said several times in this space over the years, Nick Cave is my favorite songwriter... and he's also the only artist whose art has seemed to grow with me over the years and kept me engaged.  Yes, some of his albums have left me less interested than others, but I'm not one of those fans who only listens to his "old" stuff.   I'm a fan of the complete oeuvre of Cave (fancy word... Google it..).

NIGHT ONE:   Prior to the show I met up with a couple of old friends for dinner which was a nice opening act.  Also, while passing the line in front of The Warfield on my way to dinner I ran into 2 other old friends who I had not seen in awhile.  Cave shows bring people out of the woodwork.

Mark Lanegan and his deep I-fell-down-a well-while-lost-in-the-forest voice was the perfect opener for Cave tonight.  Also, his presence was made even more valuable when he sang 'The Weeping Song' with Cave & the Bad Seeds later in the night.. but I'm getting ahead of myself.

One thing I always geek out on when Nick & the Bad Seeds come into town is how the Bad Seeds are configured onstage.  This tour's configuration seemed to have the band members more segregated than in the past but I guess it's to give Nick more room to roam.  As with the performances last year, Nick worked the stage in an aggressive way that I haven't seen since his iconic early-90's shows.  I don't know what's gotten into him but it's pretty amazing.

The old warhorses like 'Tupelo', 'From Her To Eternity', and 'The Mercy Seat' still hold up, but I think my favorite song of the night was the newest song 'Jubilee Street' with its slow build up that smashes against the wall driven by that maniac Warren Ellis on violin.  Does anyone else remember Warren when he first visited San Francisco in 1995 with his band the Dirty Three wearing an AC/DC t-shirt onstage?  It's almost impossible to imagine it's the same person.  The deep cut tonight was the very vintage 'Sad Waters' (!) which hasn't been in a Nick setlist in 11 years.   The 4-song encore was given a special nod when Nick asked a fan down front what they wanted to hear, he listened, notified the band who switched instruments, and they launched into 'Jack The Ripper'.  Nice.

After the show this happened:

The backstage action was very sedate and the only Bad Seed milling around was Jim Sclavunos; I don't think I can name another drummer who is almost 7 feet tall.  Then 24 hours later it was...

NIGHT TWO: Prior to the show I met up with several old friends for dinner which was a nice opening act.  From experience, for some reason the 2nd night is always better when seeing a band on back to back nights and this is especially true with Nick & the Bad Seeds.  Night #2 in San Francisco was even more intense right out of the gate... Although the set tonight was 1 song shorter but who was counting (I was of course.. but anyway..).  There were multiple deep cuts pulled out including 'Do You Love Me' and the extremely vintage 'Watching Alice' (!); both songs evidently have not been played live in 11 years.

Unfortunately almost 2 weeks has passed since these shows and my post show excitement and inspiration has faded with time... so writing this post mortem of these special nights isn't as fiery as I would like.  All I can finish up with is that Nick Cave is literally the only artist and musician who has kept me completely engaged as profoundly as the when I first fell into that dark space of his creativity many years ago.  It's a very rare artist who can perform a song from his first album that was released 30 years ago and have it be as menacing and relevant sounding as it did in the last century, but that's what Nick did with 'From Her To Eternity' both nights.

It's an even rarer artist who can pull the past into the present so easily and then minutes later slam the here and now down with compelling songs released only a year ago.  For those wanting to know the score, Nick & the Bad Seeds played 22 songs from his cavernous catalog over the 2 San Francisco sessions this time around. Seeing Cave is still a reality check for me about what I value about music and the experience of being a Music Geek.  Metal is like having a cold beer.  Cave is like having that cold beer followed by a glass of wine with an amazing meal.  Food analogies!  Discuss amongst yourselves.

If you bought one of every Cave merch item you would have paid around $470; as much as I love Nick his merch has always been boring.  Oh well... as long as his art doesn't suffer.  On the way back to the car both nights, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  A special shout out to The Sheriff, who has been my Cave fanboy compatriot since 2001.  It's trippy how 25 years of following an artist can go by just... like.. that:

1990 - 2013