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Oldies But Goodies: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds At The Henry Fonda Theater, February 2013

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Live At The Fonda Theatre

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Live At The Fonda Theatre (LAWeekly)

I spent the night with Nick Cave again, he may have become a sort of obsession of mine, but who can blame me? So tonight Nick Cave was discussing his new book ‘The Sick Bag Song’ at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, and even though he didn’t sing a song, it was a full house and the evening was thrilling and very funny. It was more a Q&A than a real interview, and it turned into an interesting and funny public forum toward the end… So in anticipation to Nick Cave’s discussion about ‘The Sick Bag Song’, here is the review I wrote following his show at the Fonda in February 2013… Tonight, someone in the audience reminded him how amazing this particular show was,… although Nick Cave said at one point he never remembers anything about his performances.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ performance at the Fonda on Thursday night was simply amazing, the sort of rare performance that gives you chills along the spine for close to 2 hours, makes you walk on a cloud the following day, and stays with you long after it’s over,… seriously, the kind of show that leaves you with the insane now-that-I-have-seen-this-I-can-die-happy idea. Am I a little excessive with my emotions? Probably, but the facts that I am currently listening to ‘Push the Sky Away’ non-stop and that I was front row at this sold-out show, made the experience even more amazing,…And I still have to meet someone who didn’t think it was truly awesome.

‘We are going to play it in order, so it’ll be just like listening to a record’ said Nick Cave after the first song ‘We No Who U R’, introducing the second one ‘Wide Lovely Eyes’ as being for and about his wife Susie. ‘Jesus, you Americans are weird!‘ told Nick Cave to someone in the crowd who had just screamed something about god blessing his marriage.

A short documentary about the making of the album had been projected on a white curtain just before the show, reinforcing the idea that it was a different animal, and that it may have been impossible to separate this collection of songs building the dark mystery and unique creepiness of ‘Push The Sky Away’. They certainly belong to each other, and couldn’t have been broken apart during the show.

For this unique Los Angeles show, the children choir of the Silver Lake Music Conservatory injected innocent and pure voices into songs with contemplative melodies telling dark tales about mermaids, fetus on leash and Higgs Boson/God particle. And the contrast was immense and totally magical: dark, tall thin-framed Nick Cave throwing his long arms in the air in all directions, reinventing his terrifying and expressive soundscapes with an impressive noir-theatrical presence and the help of his excellent band – multi-instrumental Warren Ellis, guitarist Ed Kuepper, drummer Thomas Wylder, bassist Martin Casey, keyboardist Conway Savage and multi-instrumentalist Barry Adamson – … and these little kids singing in repeat with angelic voices, lines like, ‘See that girl coming on down/Coming on down, coming on down’… only Nick Cave can get away with that. ‘Aren’t they cute?’ he said at one point, he was speaking to them with tenderness, ‘Hi kids!… awww’, just after a few intimidating and creepy ‘you grow old and you grow cold’.

In addition to the children choir, a string section gave an extraordinary power to some songs like ‘We Real Cool’ and especially ‘Jubilee Street’. Nick Cave was moving, doing his gothic dance like a disarticulated giant puppet, jumping across the pit, playing the orchestra chief during the glorious ascension of the song, which has to be the glowing light of the album. ‘Are you ready for this one kids?’ he said just before the phantasmagoric and Dylanes-que ‘Higgs Boson Blues’, name dropping Robert Johnson with a 10-dollar guitar, Lucifer ‘and a hundred black babies running from his genocidal jaw’, and Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus floating in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake,… and I thought the intensity of the music couldn’t have been stronger, but the last song of the album, with its metallic hypnotic keys, sparse drums, emotional strings, children’s voices and Cave’s baritone built a dramatic experience. Soon, everyone was singing ‘You’ve got to just keep on pushing it/Keep on pushing it/Push the sky away’… who has said this album had no sing-along choruses?

The mood changed drastically during the second part of the show, starting with the savage violence of ‘From Her To Eternity’, the beast was then unleashed, Cave’s body broke apart several times, throwing legs and arms in the air, leaning back to the point to almost fall over backwards, legs apart on each side of the pit, crouching over the crowd with fury on his face: it was a wild and rewarding spectacle to watch.

Came a few quieter moments with ‘O Children’ and ‘The Ship Song’, bringing more sing-alongs and then it was time to say good bye to the kiddies, as it was way past their bed-time. ‘Just don’t steal the headsets!’ Cave added as the children were leaving the stage just in time for Cave’s creepy lust for murder to explode with ‘Jack The Ripper’ and ‘Red Right Hand’. At this point, I wanted the show to go on all night as nobody was showing any sign of tiredness, even during the Elvis-style number ‘Deanna’ or the damned tension of The Mercy Seat’ with multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis’ insane violin adding to the mix.

The encore with the extraordinary ‘Stagger Lee’ was all red lights and profanities – you know, this is the song with more motherfucker/ass/dick than a Quentin Tarantino’s movie,… but it was safe, the kids had been sent to bed a while ago.

All night long, Nick Cave was a giant on stage, mixing the grandiose with an aggressive and dark energy. In the short movie shown before the performance, he said he didn’t care about the product, preferring to focus on the process of creation that he would like to go on. Among artists, musicians have precisely the privilege to continue this creation process, rebuilding their art on stage through performance; some do it with more or less success, but last night, Nick Cave made a masterpiece, as he served us darkness and creepiness on a triumphant and glowing dish.

Setlist

We No Who U R
Wide Lovely Eyes
Water’s Edge
Jubilee Street
Mermaids
We Real Cool
Finishing Jubilee Street
Higgs Boson Blues
Push the Sky Away
From Her To Eternity
O Children
The Ship Song
Jack The Ripper
Red Right Hand
Deanna
Love Letter
The Mercy Seat

Encore
Stagger Lee

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