Monday, October 6, 2008

Concert Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - 10.6.08

I know Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds have a fiercely loyal following, and that he deserves every bit of the adoration of his fans. He's a very talented musician and songwriter, and he's still coming up with quality albums well into his middle-aged years. But this show was a disappointment for me. It probably didn't help that I had a headache, and I'm sure I'd have enjoyed it more had I had a few beers and been on the floor instead of the balcony. And probably the biggest factor in my non-enjoyment was the fact that I'm not that familiar with his catalogue. There were definitely a lot of people there who had been listening to him for decades, and who had probably seen him a dozen times. They seemed to think the show was amazing. "That was one of the best shows I've ever seen," said a 50-something, tattood, soul-patched, spikey haired, aging hipster. I just didn't see it.

They did a bunch of things that annoyed me, actually. These things made me think about all the things that annoy me at shows in general. Here's a list:
  1. It really annoys me when singers completely change the melodies of their songs when they play them live. Ok, so you've sung them a million times and you want to make it interesting. I'm all for improvisation, as long as it maintains the same feel and sounds good. On songs like "Red Right Hand" and "Deanna," Cave just seemed like he was winging it because he couldn't hit the high OR low notes.
  2. I had a real problem with the showboating tonight. I expected and enjoyed Nick Cave's antics. He was all over the place, jumpin around, making fun of his bandmates and the audience, doing pelvic thrusts to accent his singing. I enjoyed it. It was one of those Bad Seed guys that pissed me off. The one that plays the violin and what looks like a tiny electric guitar (electric mandolin? electric ukelele?). That guy looked like a psychotic homeless man/ serial sex offender. He had crazy long hair and a crazy long beard. He made vaguely sexual movements throughout the show. He did the playing over the head thing with his violin, which in my book, should only be done if you are playing a solo or something really impressive, which he was not. And most of the time he was doing all this showboating, I couldn't really pick out what he was playing in all the commotion of the 7-piece group. I'm sure he's a very talented guy, but he was a distraction to me.
  3. It always ticks me off when people yell out song requests between songs. I accept that there's always gonna be some asshole who will do it, as much to call attention to himself as to actually have the song played. There were a lot of those assholes tonight, but Nick Cave actually encouraged the calling out. I'm not sure which, if any, songs he actually did play because of a shout-out, but he made clear that he was listening, and even asked, "what else do you guys wanna hear?" after the first encore song. Don't encourage them Nick! Don't make them think it's ok to do that at all the other shows I have to see with these people, where their shouting is just an annoyance to the audience AND the band.
  4. They had the amps up so freakin loud that I actually regretted not wearing earplugs. I never wear earplugs. Not to System of a Down. Not to Rattler. Not to any show I've ever been to. I rarely regret it. I listen to my Shure inner ear headphones for several hours a day, often at pretty high volume. My eardrums can take a beating. This show was excessively loud. I don't know whether to blame the band or the 930 club sound guys, but I am definitely slightly closer to deafness than I was before the show. There were a couple of times, maybe from feedback, maybe on purpose, there was a burst of sound so loud that it HURT, and I grimaced. What's the point of that? Who's gonna enjoy the show any less if it's slightly less deafening?
  5. The band tonight committed what I consider a truly unprofessional musical sin, too. One I'd never actually witnessed. They were playing "God is in the House," one of my favorites of their songs, and they messed up and stopped a whole bunch of times. Then Cave just said "fuck it" and gave up on the song, promising to come back to it later. Then he didn't come back to it. What the hell!? Who does that??
  6. Another thing that irked me at this show, which was not at all the fault of the band, was the demographic of the crowd. It wasn't any different than I'd have expected: a lot of older white people, especially men. Not that there weren't young people, but I saw a lot of people that could've been my parents. Still, no big deal. The band itself is full of old guys too, and they've been around for years and years. The thing that irked me was that I saw my future in these old single men with long hair trying desperately to be hip, but just not pulling it off. I don't judge them. For all I know, they're enjoying their lives more than anybody. I just don't want that for myself, and I see myself heading in that direction. I'm already obsessed with music, and not much of a ladies man, and go to a lot of shows, and try to dress hip, and have long hair, and wear band t-shirts, and search out obscure bands. I don't want to stop going to shows. I just don't want being a music fan and critic to take over my life. This blog isn't helping that, but I'm having a good time doing it, so I won't rain on my own parade. Still... eeek, it's a scary thought.
I'm sure there were other reasons I came away from that show with a bad taste in my mouth. It wasn't a great day for me to be going to a show, what with my headache, lack of sleep, and generally snarky mood. And it's not as if there wasn't anything good about it. I enjoyed the beginning of the show a lot. They had great energy and chemistry, and they were very good showmen. The show just happened to poke at a couple of my pet peeves, and it took away from the whole experience for me. Oh well.

[I asked Ed, my housemate who I saw the show with, to write a guest post/review of the show. Hopefully he will do it, because he is a longtime fan, and he liked the show, and it'd be a nice point-counterpoint.]

Set List:
1. Hold on to Yourself
2. Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
3. Tupelo
4. The Weeping Song
5. Red Right Hand
6. Midnight Man
7. God Is in the House (gave up)
8. Love Letter
9. Today's Lesson
10. The Mercy Seat
11. Moonland
12. Deanna
13. Papa Won't Leave You, Henry
14. More News from Nowhere
15. Your Funeral, My Trial
16. Jesus of the Moon
17. Get Ready for Love
18. Stagger Lee

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