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CONCERT REVIEW: Los Angeles & San Francisco [25,27/03/2001] by Nicolle Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

Well, THE LORD must have been smiling down on me a couple weeks back because I was able to see Nick not once but twice! Yes, twice! Once in the City of Angels, my infamous hometown and once in San Francisco. Both
shows were amazing but different in overall tone and for lack of a better word, "vibe".

I've seen Nick with the Bad Seeds at the Wiltern several times and was very excited to see what these solo shows would be like. Let me just say too, that the Wiltern is the perfect venue for an artist like Nick. It's a very old and
meticulously restored art deco theater and is just gorgeous. You can't help but feel elegant wandering around the lobby with its soaring ceilings and grand staircases. The auditorium itself is very intimate, I don't think there's a bad seat in the house and the acoustics are fantastic.

So, after an obligatory cruise by the merchandise table, my friend and I took our seats, a little to the side but very close to the stage and I started looking around. One of things I love about Nick's shows, aside from the music and just being in the same room with the man, is the crowd he draws. It's such a curious mix and included in it, on this
night, were middle aged artistic types, velvet clad goths, young punks and a ton of what I call "scenesters", really well dressed and well heeled twenty somethings, mostly employed by the entertainment industry.

Neko Case was great, not my "bag", so to speak but she had a lovely voice, like a cross between K.D Lang and Fiona Apple. Truth be told, however, it could've been Madonna up there in a see-through nun's habit, all I was
interested in was Nick. And at long last, I got my wish, the lights dimmed and he came striding across the stage in a slightly rumpled suit. He waved, introduced himself and said, "This is a love song that became... Something else." and then he snarled and pounded out "West Country Girl" like the piano was his enemy and the girl in the song, the foulest bitch who ever walked the earth.

The crowd was really raucous and responded enthusiastically to everything with screams and whistles and shouts. Requests were constantly demanded. At first I felt kind of embarrassed at this, I imagined Nick must be thinking,
"Christ what an annoying bunch!" but the crowd's energy seemed to be infectious. Nick was very animated and interacted with the audience quite a lot. He made jokes about smoking (which he also did a lot), leapt up after
almost every song for a bow and worked that piano like nobody's business.

Warren Ellis was equally on fire. During fast songs he danced like mad while whipping the bow across his violin strings. During slow songs he rocked gently back and forth and sometimes, he just laid on his back in seeming
contemplation of the gorgeous music he was helping to create.

At one point someone from the audience yelled out jokingly, "Play something happy!" to which Nick glibly responded, "I don't do happy songs. I do angry and I do sad. That's what I do." And that's just what he gave us, fury and poignancy, bludgeonings and tears. The only notable exception was "God is in the House", which, admittedly, was funny as all get out but the humor was still pure Nick, wry, sardonic, sarcastic and black.

All and all a tremendous show.

The San Francisco show was held at the Palace of Fine Arts, another great venue but the exact opposite of the Wiltern in style. Where the Wiltern is a virtual antique, the Palace is streamlined and modern. My boyfriend and
I sat out Neko Case this time in favor of people watching and alcohol consuming. Again, the crowd was a treat, with beautifully made up and decked out goths being the predominant flavor.

For this show we had second row seats and though our view of Nick was slightly blocked by the piano we got a much better view of Warren and the other band members. Just a note here, I feel badly for not mentioning Susan Stenger and Jim White more often but in all honesty, these shows were Nick's almost entirely. Warren had his moments but it was Nick right in front, his voice and the piano drowned everyone else out and I think that was the intention. Nick, himself, called very little attention to anyone but Warren and the first thing he said after playing
"West Country Girl" in San Francisco was, "Turn up the voice and the piano."

As I said at the beginning, the San Francisco show had a different vibe than LA. Both the crowd and Nick were more quiet and subdued. The feeling was more like a classical performance than a rock concert, as it had been at the Wiltern. When Nick mentioned "No More Shall We Part"'s coming out in April someone yelled "Napster!". Nick thought he said "faster" and responded, "I don't think that's going to happen son." It was a funny moment and Nick
kept returning to it through out the show, saying things like, "Here's a slow one." and "Do you really want to hear that one? It's slow."

Suprisingly, after claiming it was overwritten in LA, Nick agreed to a request for "Do You Love Me Part Two". At this point Warren had left the stage and Nick joked that someone would have to fetch him from the bar then
spent about five minutes searching a notebook for "Do You Love Me"'s lyrics. He also added "Straight to You" to this show's lineup.

One of the cooler aspects of being so close to the stage this time around was that I could see and hear Nick and Warren interacting. They oftenly exchanged jokes and remarks and when one was really shining the other watched admiringly. It was great to see how close they are and the obvious respect they have for one another's talent.

Again, a fantastic show.

Having been a fan of Nick's for so many years now, I have to admit, I was a little nervous about these shows. I was scared I wouldn't like the new stuff as much as the old. I was afraid Nick was trying to reinvent himself as a
solo artist, all serious and sophisticated, without his previous fire. But I had nothing to fear. The new material sounded incredible and Nick is as full as energy and passion as he was the first time I saw him during "The Good
Son" tour (Jesus, was it ELEVEN years ago?). True, he did seem more mature and controlled behind the piano but what I've always loved about Nick was still there, in the wildly contorting voice, screaming, crooning and cajoling and in the music, as brutal as it is ethereal and beautiful because it's both.


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