Friday, October 3rd, 2008
Photo by Frank Yang
Dear every other touring band in the world: we appreciate your interest, but your services are no longer required. We have Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
My ticket to their show at the Kool Haus had been sitting on my corkboard for something like six months, and with every listen to Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, to say nothing of my ongoing explorations of his back catalog, I couldn’t wait for Wednesday night to come fast enough. Cave’s live show has long been regarded as legendary and as a recent convert, I was most anxious to see the spectacle for myself.
The openers were Black Mountain, who were making the most of their visit to the 416 with two shows – three if you include their Polaris gala performance – in five days. As they took the stage, one helpful audience member called out, “please don’t suck!” – no worries there. Despite myriad opportunities, I’d never seen the Vancouver quintet live before and was quite handily impressed. Despite their sludgy, stoner-rock reputation they weren’t unnecessarily loud and displayed considerable musical nimbleness in delivering tracks from In The Future, highlighted by Stephen McBean’s guitar heroics and Amber Webber’s unearthly vocals. And it’s quite an endorsement that the full house of Cave devotees seemed to quite enjoy their set, sending them off with an enthusiastic “you guys were pretty good!”. Which they certainly were.
But on this night, the bar for performance would be set considerably higher than “pretty good”. With the Bad Seeds taking up every square foot of the expanded Kool Haus stage – and if I can make a comic geek joke, Warren Ellis looks an awful lot like Alan Moore – Cave bounded on stage and turned “Night Of The Lotus Eaters” from a relatively low-key, mood piece on album into a searing and sleazy opening salvo that would set the tone for the show. Cave, natty in a purple pinstripe suit, prowled and pounced around the stage looking like the mad preacher offspring of Mephisto and Elvis here to welcome the apocalypse and convince the audience that they should as well. By rights, the persona that Cave inhabits in song and on stage should come off as theatre but he inhabits it so bloody well that there is no questioning it.
Not all was fire and brimstone, though. If his demon-possessed orator wasn’t able to convince you to join his merry voyage of the damned, then with jacket doffed and extra shirt button undone, his seductive balladeer would surely seal the deal. Not that he needed to try that hard to get the crowd to follow him anywhere or even at all – judging from the many declarations of love from the audience, all returned by Cave of course, they were his from note one. Credit must also go to the Bad Seeds, an absolutely crack musical outfit capable of moving from anarchic skronk to elegiac beauty at the drop of the hat, but at the end of the day it’s about Cave, who is definitely one of the most charismatic performers I’ve ever seen.
The one hour, forty-five minute set was pretty much a perfect blend of old material and new, one third drawn from Lazarus and the rest from the entire breadth of his 25-year career. He even seemed to take requests, delivering an elegant “Ship Song” in response to a placard in the audience, though set lists from the rest of the tour implied that it’d have made an appearance anyways. But gestures like that, as well as designating a girl in the audience as “keeper of the towel” – as in the increasingly sweat-soaked implement that he and she tossed back and forth throughout the show – are what make Cave such an engaging frontman. Well, that and an incredible voice, presence, catalog of songs and mustache.
For the encore, Cave and company delivered the two lead tracks from the double-disc masterpiece Abbatoir Blues and The Lyre Of Orpheus, the former turned into a squall of punk rock anarchy and the latter a lurching bit of audience call-and-response, and as a show finale, a scorched earth “Stagger Lee”. Oh mama. So worth the wait.
With Cave’s entire catalog being remastered and reissued in expanded form, I’m waiting a bit before delving further into his works but having now gotten a taste of what awaits me beyond The Best Of and what I’ve already gotten – I just ordered up the Abbatoir Blues Tour set – I can’t wait. The Globe & Mail has an interview with Cave and there’s more joyous reports from Wednesday night’s congregation at eye, Exclaim!, The Toronto Sun and Chart.
Photos: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Black Mountain @ The Kool Haus – October 1, 2008
MP3: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!”
MP3: Black Mountain – “Tyrants”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Night Of The Lotus Eaters”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “More News From Nowhere”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Midnight Man”
Video: Black Mountain – “Wucan”
MySpace: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
MySpace: Black Mountain
Oasis’ new record Dig Out Your Soul is currently streaming in its entirety over at the band’s MySpace. It’s out for reals on Tuesday. NME has a piece on Gold And Silver And Sunshine, the making-of doc that’s going to accompany the album in some form, and JAM has some more from Noel Gallagher on the infamous stage attack from last month. Speaking of which, the band have announced a North American tour in December… and curiously, there’s not Toronto date? I wonder why?
Stream: Oasis / Dig Out Your Soul
Video: Radiohead – “Reckoner”
Dave Gedge of The Wedding Present talks about life in California to LiveDaily and reveals to The Georgia Straight that after recording El Rey with Steve Albini, they went back and re-recorded the whole of their debut George Best with him. The Wedding Present are at Lee’s Palace tonight and if you’re going, remember it’s an early show – doors 7:30, Dirty On Purpose at 8:15 and Wedding Present at 9:30 – all over by 11.
The Wilmington Star-News rightly acknowledges both parts of a kick-ass tour crossing the continent, talking to both Okkervil River’s Will Sheff and Crooked Fingers’ Eric Bachmann. The latter’s Fortune/Forfeit is out on Tuesday.
Earlier this week Pitchfork put together a listing of all the medium and major album releases still due in 2008. I also maintain such a calendar for my own purposes but less interesting than what they noted that I didn’t – a new Wheat album on November 11 and a Cat Power EP on December 9 that shows she’s still in covers girl mode, guess The Sun isn’t coming this year – was what is apparently not showing up this year after all. I don’t necessarily know if these would show up on the ‘Fork radar, but I had been anxiously awaiting First Love from Emmy The Great and Clinging To A Scheme from The Radio Dept, both of which had been originally targeted for a September release. Obviously that’s not happened. My fingers are crossed that at least one will surface before the year’s out, but more than likely their reserved spots in my year-end list will have to carry over to ’09.