[…continued from previous post]
Next came another, even more striking song I was aware of since day one, but had never heard. “Tupelo” was certainly mythmaking at an extremely high level. The performance of the song was complete with black and white storm footage showing the full fury of nature to herald the birth of The King. The lighting director had wisely chosen yellow side lighting to suggest that eerie yellow light one seen right before a tropical storm or hurricane. The level of bombast and impact were certainly arresting. With the last two numbers, the show had gone from a whisper to a scream quite capably.
“Jubilee Street” was another key song from “Push The Sky Away” to figure in the set. Though only three years old, it was clearly accorded classic Nick Cave status. The song always felt much shorter than its 6:39 length and here in concert it might have been expanded even further. I was too busy drinking it all in to notice one way or another.
The first song that was played that I had neither heard nor even heard of was “Into My Arms” from “The Boatman’s Call.” This was a darkly tender ballad that scaled back the drama for an intimate effect. It led into the far more devastating “Girl In Amber” from “Skeleton Tree.” While Cave onstage is the rarest of entities; a literate beast, this song was all about his rarely explored vulnerability. He sang this one as if emotionally demolished, then followed it with the even more raw “I Need You.” My wife thinks he’s using an a phasing on this one that came from a Warren Zevon track, but we’ve yet to re-discover which one.
After this dark heart of the tour, we would need an injection of Bad Seeds power to pull the show out of the abyss of despair that it had circled perilously close to, and we got all of that and more with the back-to-back combo of “Red Right Hand” and “The Mercy Seat.” Then the show concluded with the final two tracks from “Skeleton Tree;” “Distant Sky” and the title track. “Distant Sky” is the heart of grace and benediction at the core of the album, with Cave duetting with Danish soprano Else Torp, and her vocals were pre-recorded on a video used as a backdrop for the song. And after your hear this one, it simply had to have been followed by the delicate piano ballad “Skeleton Tree.” With that the packed house let loose while the band briefly left the stage before the encore began.
I was not familiar with “The Weeping Song” or “Jack The Ripper,” and the latter felt like it could have been from the “Murder Ballads” album, but then I suppose each Cave album had at least one song you could say that about. The next song was from that disc, and Cave’s blisteringly profane version of “Stagger Lee” would have made even the earliest versions of this usually whitewashed folk song blush. The lighting was full on solid red right up front, and that heavy-handed gesture was the only misstep of the evening. I would have had it remain blue, up until the four shots of drumburst that signified the action of Stagger Lee shooting the bartender. For those, I would have had four spots synched to the beat pointing straight out to the audience; only to have red lighting flow down from the ceiling to inundate the former blue tones for the rest of the song. Ahhh. Much better. But my only qualm was with the lighting. Musically, Cave added a surprising coda I’d not heard to the song wherein Old Nick Himself, appeared at the Bucket of Blood to take Stagger Lee off to his reward in Hell, only to suffer the same fate as everyone else in the song who had the misfortune to encounter the deadly Stagger Lee. Yow!
After these theatrics, the redemptive title track to “Push The Sky Away” let the evening end on the proper note of grace as the song’s chorus became a mantra of the audience singing along with Cave as he waded over a dozen rows into the audience from the front of the stage. Not the easiest thing to do in a venue with fixed seating. The artist was encircled by a halo of smartphone lights/flashes as he sang the song. And then evening was finished.
Nick Cave + The Bad Seeds | Thomas Wolfe Auditorium | June 7, 2017
2. Jesus Alone
4. Higgs Boson Blues
5. From Her to Eternity
7. Jubilee Street
8. The Ship Song
9. Into My Arms
10. Girl in Amber
11. I Need You
12. Red Right Hand
13. The Mercy Seat
14. Distant Sky
15. Skeleton Tree
16. The Weeping Song
17. Jack the Ripper
18. Stagger Lee
19. Push the Sky Away
I have got to say that seeing Cave swagger and stalk the stage and relate to his audience was fairly gripping. At certain points, he seemed as if he were going to stage dive and came close to crowd surfing with the huddled masses in the pit. He was touching many of the outreached hands that were flailing for him and there was nothing aloof about his delivery. My wife was very impressed at how in the middle of a song, he managed to say “I think we need security here” as someone nearby may have been having some drug issues that were quickly taken care of. Had she not mentioned that to me, I may have not even noticed.
The selection of material worked for a neophyte like myself just fine. Almost all of the excellent “Skeleton tree” album got an airing, with only my second favorite song, the delicate “Rings of Saturn” not getting a performance. Other than that, it was largely drawn from his latest two, less typical albums of more abstract material, with a good selection of Cave classics and deep cuts. The caliber of delivery was never less that top of the line and the band ran the gamut from mournful birdsong to shrieking banshees. I was taken aback that Cave was perhaps the only artist I’ve ever seen who did not introduce his band at any time during the show. That felt strange, particularly when they were so keenly attuned to his performance and range. Particularly when drummer Thomas Wydler had been with Cave his entire post-Birthday Party career.
Apart from that strange omission, the show had been a masterclass in how to deliver a wide spectrum of intense emotional material that was by turns, emotionally devastating through to the swaggeringly theatrical, with all of it touched by the literate mind of Nick Cave who showed how an artist delivers; making the 3000 seater seem as intimate as a club. Even as many of the songs we were experiencing would have been unthinkable in such close quarters. Some things are just too vivid and bracing in that sort of setting. One thing is for certain; I won’t be turning a blind eye to Nick Cave + The Bad Seeds the next time that travel through our city. This was one very powerful show whereby an artist known for storytelling and black humor showed that he could work through his recent grief in ways that enhanced his art even further. Try not to miss this.
Nick Cave + The Bad Seeds | Skeleton Tree North American Tour | 2017
16 June 2017 | Auditorium Theatre, Roosevelt University | Chicago, IL
18 June 2017 | Paramount Theatre | Denver, CO
19 June 2017 | Kingsbury Hall | Salt Lake City, UT
21 June 2017 | Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall | Portland, OR
22 June 2017 | Queen Elizabeth Theatre | Vancouver, BC
24 June 2017 | Greek Theatre | Berkeley, CA
26 June 2017 | San Diego Civic Theatre | San Diego, CA
28 June 2017 | The Theatre at Ace Hotel | Los Angeles, CA
29 June 2017 | Greek Theatre | Los Angeles, CA
Nick Cave + The Bad Seeds | Skeleton Tree European Tour | 2017
24 September 2017 | Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) | Bournemouth, UK
25 September 2017 | Manchester Arena | Manchester, UK
27 September 2017 | The SSE Hydro | Glasgow, UK
28 September 2017 | Motorpoint Arena Nottingham | Nottingham, UK
30 September 2017 | The O2 Arena | Greenwich, UK
03 October 2017 | Zénith de Paris | Paris, France
04 October 2017 | Zénith de Paris | Paris, France
06 October 2017 | Ziggo Dome | Amsterdam, Netherlands
07 October 2017 | Jahrhunderthalle | Frankfurt, Germany
09 October 2017 | Sporthalle Hamburg | Hamburg, Germany
10 October 2017 | Rockhal | Esch Sur Alzette, Luxembourg
12 October 2017 | Mitsubishi Electric Halle | Düsseldorf, Germany
13 October 2017 | Sportpaleis | Antwerp, Belgium
16 October 2017 | Oslo Spektrum | Oslo, Norway
18 October 2017 | Ericsson Globe Arena | Stockholm, Sweden
20 October 2017 | Royal Arena | Copenhagen, Denmark
22 October 2017 | Max-Schmeling-Halle | Berlin, Germany
24 October 2017 | Torwar | Warsaw, Poland
01 November 2017 | Stadthalle Wien | vienna, Austria
02 November 2017 | Zenith | Munich, Germany
04 November 2017 | Kioene Arena | Padua, Italy
06 November 2017 | Mediolanum Forum | Milan, Italy
08 November 2017 | Palalottomatica | Rome, Italy
12 November 2017 | Hallenstadion | Zürich, Switzerland
13 November 2017 | Arena Geneve | Geneva, Switzerland
16 November 2017 | Faliro Sports Pavilion Arena | Athens, Greece
19 November 2017 | Tel Aviv-Jaffa | Israel
20 November 2017 | Tel Aviv-Jaffa | Israel
– 30 –