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Nick Cave and the Caveman

April 15, 2013

I think I have seen the best concert of my life. What I mean is that I’ve seen a concert that was more entertaining than any concert I’ve ever seen before.

I think the concert was that good.

So much of enjoying a concert has to do with the mood I’m in at the show. Going to a concert isn’t usually a spur-of-the-moment thing for me. I usually get tickets prior to the show, weeks prior, sometimes months.

The problem with my mood having an effect on the show is that I just might not be in a metal mood the day of a metal concert.

Last year, I went to see The Cult when they came to Toronto. They played fine but I was not in a Cult mood that day. I could not get into the show.

Recently, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds came through Toronto.

For those who don’t know, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are a band that will never appeal to the masses. Calling the music depressing would be an understatement. Their biggest hit is a song from the album Murder Ballads, a song about a guy who takes his girlfriend down by the river, smashes her head with a rock, kills her and chucks her corpse into the river. The reason it was a small hit was because it’s a duet with Kylie Minogue. It’s a beautiful piece of music. It’s just very depressing. And when the music is not depressing, it’s angry, violent and angry.

As for the genre in a more general sense, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is goth gone blues. Not goth for girls but real goth, music from the vampire’s point-of-view. Scary goth. No exchanging make-up tips with Robert Smith in these tunes.

So that’s Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Come the day of the show, I wasn’t really in the mood for dirty blues and depressing poetry. I listened to the new album Push the Sky Away twice earlier in the day trying to force myself into the mood. The album is slow, quiet, depressing and deep. It’s great, if that’s what you want. It didn’t work. I wanted something a bit more aggressive. Something loud. Something fierce. I put on Jethro Tull’s Aqualung. That was loud, fierce, aggressive but still smart and witty.

That night, I went to the show.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds took the stage. So did a string quintette. So did a youth choir from a local public school.

Picture this: Nick Cave, scrawny guy in a loose fitting casual suit, no tie, big collar. The Bad Seeds, five guys that look like any five guys you’d meet anywhere. Just five normal guys. But the Bad Seeds are six guys. The sixth guy, Warren Ellis. Imagine a thawed-out caveman, long unkempt hair, longer unkempt beard, forced into a suit, occassionally scratching his ass with a violin. The string section, four violins and a cello. Just another string section. And then the youth choir. Eighteen, twenty kids or so, dressed like kids, smiling and waving like kids. Local kids, kids who learned these songs just for this one show.

I had no idea what to expect.

The band opened the set with four or five songs from the new album. But unlike the sad mood of the new songs on the recording, the live performance was much more life-affirming. Somehow, someway, this rag-tag group of musicians made beautiful music together. Songs that should have been depressing lifted my spirits.

After the assortment of new songs, the band broke into two older songs, From Her to Eternity and O Children. That was it for the youth choir. Nick asked the audience to give them a big hand as he thanked them. Then the band went right back into their set.

At one point, Warren Ellis, the caveman-looking violin/guitar player made his way across the stage to the string section and began conducting. The image of this caveman conducting classical musicians was unnerving. Then he broke into this visual performance that was a combination of Bugs Bunny conducting Giovanni Jones and a pagan thunder-worship dance.

I had no idea what I was witnessing. I was enjoying it. I just didn’t know what it was.

The band closed the set with Stagger Lee, a song about a psychopath. A guy who walks into a bar, kills the bartender then kills another man after forcing him to perform oral sex on him. Then Stagger Lee kills the Devil. Yeah, he’s that evil. He’s “That bad mother fucker called Stagger Lee” or so the chorus goes.

The song ended and Nick thanked the crowd, then the band left the stage. A minute later, the band returned, with the youth choir. Were the children backstage during Stagger Lee? Did they hear the several occurances of “That bad mother fucker called Stagger Lee?” Did they hear how he’d “Crawl over fifty good pussies just to get to one fat boy’s asshole?” The subject matter was a bit risque for kids. That worried me. Otherwise, I was very impressed with the show as a whole. If Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are coming to your town later on this tour, I suggest checking them out.

Never did the music feel depressing without relief. The songs may have started low, but picked up and lifted me. Even The Weeping Song was uplifting. Yeah, there’s a song called The Weeping Song. These guys are that depressing. If I had to choose one word to describe the show, it would be life-affirming. If I had to pick a second word, that word would be confusion. Life-affirming first, confusion second.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2013 10:32 pm

    Great show review dude! Glad that you enjoyed it.

  2. April 15, 2013 11:08 pm

    This is actually a great review.

  3. April 20, 2013 11:49 pm

    The review is good. You always do a great job on these. :) I’m glad you had a good time.

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