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CONCERT REVIEW: Orpheum Theater, New Orleans [21/03/2001] by Forlorn Hope Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

On the day of the concert, while I was fidgeting in class, I scratched out a list. A list of my personal favorite songs that I wanted Nick to play. Throughout the night members of the audience demanded from Mister Cave certain songs, but he did not grant them their requests. It seemed like he was picking and choosing songs from the list I drew up only a few hours earlier. It was if he was playing to me alone. That sounds terribly selfish and egotistical, but I don't really care. I'm just glad that my plea, my petition, my kind of prayer was answered.

(And if you're looking for more melodramatic garble like that found above then please continue looking elsewhere. We just came for the facts.)

Once more into the breach! Yes, your loyal reporter was there yester-night for an a row of Cave-A-Mania! Nick ain't dead, no no no, he was at his best last evening lifting our spirits with song and doling out sarcy insults to some of the more irritating members of the audience. Let's dive right in.

Ross, Jon, and myself arrived about a half-hour before the support act was supposed to go on. The place is sold out. We grabbed a sandwich from some shop and ate and watched the legions of Cave's fans arrive. All the colors of the rainbow. Mostly black. I dunno, Nick is some strange kind of common ground that everyone seems to be able to agree upon. Sorta like Bob Dylan, I guess. Keeping with my forecast, the Goths were there in mass with their big hats and veils all draped in velvet, but so were the indie rock kids. There was a gaggle of stoned hippies who fell over and upended a table of Stephen Malkmus promo stuff (serves that bastard right), two or three Rastifarians, the Black Metal crowd, and a few glam rockers and rockabilly types and then me, with my pudding-bowl hair tweed-coat pseudo-Mod-ness. No, New Romantics though, alas. Everyone was all gussied up in their finest duds and I was happy I didn't bring a date along cos never in my life have I seen a show with as many beautiful women in attendance. I mean, absolutely stunning women.

All the fashionable folks were there as well. All the great hip shining stars of New Orleans. I believe someone said Anne Rice was in attendance in a private box and I know for a fact that mister Nine Inch Nails himself Trent Reznor was there because Nick pointed him out and told everyone to bother him and ask him for autographs after the show. Who knew he was a fan? I was hoping that Phil Anselmo from Pantera, another New Orleanite, would pop over and cause trouble, but he didn't. No Kylie either, but it mattered little. It wouldn't have mattered if it would have been just Nick and the piano. He was that amazing.

The opening act, Kelly Hogan and Andy Hopkins, a little country-rock mostly covers band from Atlanta played a nice assortment of what they called "bummer rock" and "make-out music." They dimmed the lights and told everyone to do what came natural. No romance for me this evening, here on business. Hogan and Hopkins covered a host of songs by the Statler Bros., Burt Bacharach and Randy Newman with some of their own stuff, like their homo-erotic trucker song called "Papa Was A Rodeo." Kelly looked a lot like Xexene from X and her voice resembled "Easter" era Patti Smith. She sang while Hopkins stood shoe-gazing still, looking nervous. They both were very nervous opening for scary ole Nick Cave, Kelly claimed. They did about 40 minute set of good country and blues. Very entertaining.

Intermission. I bought a copy of the newest Witness mag. It has a big feature on this nutcase from Australia called Chopper. You might have seen him in last month's FHM. This guy, Mark Brandon Reed, is a professional killer who has sliced both his ears off with a straight-razor and has a penchant for cutting off fingers and toes of people who are unfortunate enough to draw his ire. You know, bad people like judges and police officers and drug dealers and pimps. Anyway, for some reason, this lunatic is immensely popular and publishes books and CD's fairly regularly and now director Andrew Dominik has decided to make a full length motion picture about "Australia's most notorious hitman, prisoner and self-aggrandising author." And guess who volunteered to score this heart-warming feel good movie event? Why fellow Melbourne hometown boy done good, Mick Harvey, of course! I don't really know the details and frankly I don't care to know them. Typical big ole interview with Nick on the subject of the new album and some info about a ballet that Nick is supposedly scoring with Barrie Kosky. Well worth the 2 or 3 dollars.

People still can't smoke and the crowd is not happy with that.

Retake my nice front-and-center seat and bop along quite happily to the intermission music which sounds as if it's Nick's personal mix tape. It has a few gospel songs, and then Cohen's "Love Calls You By Your Name" and then Epic Soundtracks, "She Sleeps Alone." Who knows? All I do know is that the stupid cows dressed in Renaissance clothing a few rows in front of me are really annoying. I'll be referring to these cows later on when they become targets of Nick's after they prove to be ineffective hecklers.

The lights dim and out walks the man himself, dressed to nines in typical black coat white shirt attire only sans-GAP jeans that he wore on Letterman and followed by a trail of cigarette smoke. He pops the crowd, and then flops down on the grand piano. "Thank you for coming tonight to uh...to whatever this is, this venture, thank you," Nick says. He starts playing a bit on the piano and then says, "This was a love song...but it has...it has become something else," and then dives into a fucking nasty and aggressive version of West Country Girl. Nick is not singing, he is nearly snarling and growling the words, the words that definitely are not love lyrics any longer.

He finishes West Country Girl and then the rest of the band joins him on stage. Mad Gypsy Warren Ellis on violin and accordion, Jim White on drums and Susan Strenger, of Big Bottom, on bass. A single gold nine-pointed star hangs above each of the performers and is the only decoration on the stark black stage. Nick and Warren are both smoking again and someone from the balcony asks Nick if they can smoke. Nick replies, taking a long drag off his cig, "You most certainly can not. This is a smoke free venue...if you respect that sort of thing." Permission granted, thank you much Nick. Everybody reaching for their lighters and digging for their cigarettes.

Sad Waters, my favorite song bar none, is next and it sounds exactly as it did on the "Secret Life Of The Love Song" lecture album. Perfect. Well, I suppose it would since it is the same band, "the little band." Jyratin' Hip-Shakin' Motivatin' Warren Ellis has my attention and is quickly becoming my favorite Badseed. He is utterly disarming. Brilliant.

After Sad Waters, Nick immediately begins People Ain't No Good. I'm starting to wonder if this performance is going to be simply a "Secret Life Of The Love Song" gig since they're sticking with the song order pretty strictly.

Fears allayed, The Mercy Seat is waiting. Nice rendition of The Mercy Seat which resembles Johnny Cash's version more so than the Cave/Harvey number. I suppose Johnny has adopted one of Nick's "children" and given it a life of its own.

Right, everything up to this point has been great, stellar as Henry Rollins might say. I'm fully expecting Nick to keep sticking with his better-known "hit" songs, maybe throwing us the occasional B-side bone or something, but Nick has laid down other queer plans. Nick puts out his cigarette and then Schleiffen Plan's around my left flank and kicks me in the kidneys, saying, "I was once in another band...uh, called The Birthday Party." The place becomes just one big mad deafening howl and it is suddenly 1983 again. "This is Wild World." The Party lived again for that one frightening moment. Nick's voice was still there, Jim White has Mick Harvey's number, Rowland Howard's evil bayonet barb-wire guitar fuzz was somehow strangled and captured inside Warren Ellis' violin and the heavy Tracy Pew bass line came through back from beyond the grave. "H-H-HEY, H-H-HEY...STROPHE, ANTI-STROPHE, STROPHE, ANTI-STROPHE, ANTI-STROPHE, ANTI-STROPHE...DON'T PUSH ME, DON'T PUSH ME." Nick is bouncing on his seat, abusing the ivory while Warren Ellis is stuck in a nose-dive and eventually crashes against the piano and to the floor. Everyone is standing including myself, just shaking their fists and yelling. Quickly as it began though, Old Testament Party Nick is again put back in his box, shelved and it becomes 2001 again. Kudos to the lighting techs as well during that song. One of my favorite moments of the night.

Wild World got more of a reaction than I think Nick initiatively believed it would. Nothing like The Birthday Party to turn a crowd of otherwise docile semi-normal folks into a sea of just nihilistic rage and wrath. After the song he was bombarded with requests for more Party tunes. Release The Bats, A Dead Song, Several Sins, Deep In The Woods. Someone calls out for Freebird and Warren Ellis wants to play it, but Nick laughs and says no. Sorry, no time to rekindle, remake, remodel, rehash, or recapture former glories. While I very much enjoyed Wild World, I know that that time in Nick's life is done with. Nick isn't looking back. I really do think that offends Nick, actually, the constant fingers of suggestion stuck down his throat. People always telling him that oh your old stuff is great you should do more Birthday Party albums or you should do another album like Your Funeral, My Trial or Murder Ballads. Nick isn't a washed up Vegas singer, he's not playing the old hits for you boys and girls. The miserable wizened dog has, I'll wager, an endless supply of new tricks to show us if we'd only be willing to watch and listen.

New trick from the new album. The rest of the band exits and the immediately recognizable tinkly-tink piano riff of Love Letter. I like Love Letter. A lot. It's such a simple candid lyric, not all clogged up with metaphor or allusions or anything. Just a great love song. Catchy too. Sing along with me...Love Letter, Love Letter...tinkly tink tink tink tink tink...Go Get Her, Go Get Her. Wish Warren Ellis would have stayed on stage cos the song sounds so much better with the strings.

The emigres return from short exile and Nick has a copy of the new Badseed's album in hand. He says, "Um, there's a new album with my other band, The Badseeds." At this point one of the stupid cows (remember them) in front of me stupidly asks Nick if he is on the album. "Um, yes I sing on it. The album is out..." I know the release date, April 10th, but I don't shout it out pointlessly trying to beat the man to the punch. I don't, but one of the stupid cows' attendants (feeders?) does. April 10th, he cries out. Nick peers down at the man and says, "Yes, thank you very much, April 10th. You have all the answers." Nick puts the album back down, "I won't play too much off of this tonight since the Badseeds will be coming back here...um...," he points to the April 10th crier and asks him, "do you know when, mister computer nerd?" And, of course, he sits dumb. "We'll be coming back to this lovely place in...sometime during the summer."

There you have it, Badseeds American tour confirmed. So don't worry if ya didn't get to see Nick this go-round, you'll have another chance during the summer.

"And No More Shall We Part..." It's only after hearing this song played live that I realize how much anguish and heart-ache lies hidden behind the smiling declaration of never-fading love. About half way through the song it changes into some kinda paranoid plea. "I'll never be free, if I'm not free now." Again, another simple love song. Keep it simple.

And he does with the yearning of Into My Arms. Next song. Not wanting for the show to get too "heavy," Nick downshifts and plays another new track off And No More Shall We Part, but only after issuing a referendum to the crowd. "You want me to play an old song?" Resounding noise in the key of the affirmative. "Alright, I'll play a new song." The "computer nerd" from earlier tells Nick that if he wanted to hear his new stuff he would simply listen to it on his computer. Nick tells him that he is a very annoying little man and begins to play. Only one song ago Nick was proclaiming that he didn't believe in an interventionist God, now he whispers, quiet as a mouse, that God Is In The House. Not everyone gets the joke at first, but when Nick starts going on about lesbians and well-meaning little therapists goose-stepping there are Southern drawled outbursts of "Amen" and "Hallelujah." This song ends and even Nick is smiling. Well, more like smirking and even then only for a few seconds.

Nick now starts talking about his children. Mainly about Luke, but some about his new twins. Now, would the biggest jackass in the building please stand and, of course, the lobotomized cow in a stupid cunt-crash-helmet of a hat near me complies and rises to ask the question that was really on all of our lips and minds. She inquires, in an after school-special faux British accent. "Did one of your children wind up in an egg-crate?" If her goals were to stymie Nick, then I think she succeeded, because he made her ask the inane question again. This time she added to her question about the whereabouts of his children, "...just like your first book." Nick, not one to suffer fools, quickly responded in the negative. Everyone is telling the gregarious cow to shut the fuck up and one overzealous punk hurls his empty water bottle at her. Hoping we haven't offended Nick, some girl about my age in a white dress stands up and says, "I love your book...your book is great." The audience claps and concurs. Nick smirks, and modestly shrugs, "It's alright...the critics think so, and I thank you for confirming my suspicions."

Right, back on track, Jack. Nick claims he wrote this next song in Brazil while watching over the cradle of his now 9 year old son, Luke.

Like tonight's version of The Mercy Seat, Papa Won't Leave You, Henry hardly resembles the song off Henry's Dream. The lyrics are the same, but Cave's slow soft delivery along with only Susan on bass and Warren on accordion makes the song sound almost like a lullaby.

Jim White returns and Warren stays on accordion for a song that Nick claims they've never gotten quite right. Well they got it right tonight because Do You Love Me (Part 2) with it's subtle and understated aches and quiverings was, to me, the best song of the night. It speaks for itself.

The cow, now fully recovered from the earlier punk plastic bottling attack, breathily says that Nick is the most romantic man in the world. She is met with further abuse. But that's what the Goths want isn't it? To be tortured and hated.

"Right, now I'll do..." A fan calls out Tupelo and Nick throws his hands up and says no, "now I'll do a murder ballad." Mista Stagga Lee comes a-stalkin, but the mournful mood set by Warren's violin and Nick's piano made me feel a tinge of pity when Stag's wife tells him to never ever come back no more. But you really can't feel sorry for Stag, though Nick might want us to, especially when he starts pumping everybody fulla lead. Still, he's not half as bad as the killer in O'Malley's Bar. Stag is probably just misunderstood.

Nick and the rest say good night and take their bows, but even the most uninitiated of his fans knows that no true rock star leaves the stage without an encore. After a minute or so, the clapping and clamor coaxes Nick and the "little band" to return where they run through a medley of Nick's best songs. The Ship Song, with Nick alone on piano, Straight To You, Henry Lee and Loom Of The Land. The rest of the band takes their bows and Nick flips through the pages of King Ink II in search of the proper send-off. He smiles when he finds it and runs furiously fast through Little Empty Boat standing up at the end telling us good night in his own special way. Flicking the V's, Nick sings, "Give to God what belongs to God and give the rest to me, you can all go fuck yourselves, it's time for me to leave."

And that, as they say, was that. The outstanding "little band," I think, might someday evolve into another project for Nick. Just a thought. And that's how it was last night. If anyone says different tell them we duel at dawn with pistols.

 

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