|CONCERT REVIEW: San Francisco, Warfield Theatre [18/04/2002] by Mark Fantino|
|Sunday, 13 August 2006|
"I wanna tell you 'bout a girl..."
That's how Nick Cave used to start off his shows, long ago. He didn't start last nights show quite that way, though there was a girl there, who I was watching for most of his set. The girl next to me was very beautiful. It may have been the lights or the setting, or the Pilsner-Urquell swashling in my somewhat empty stomach, but she looked very much like P.J. Harvey. Petite frame, thin graceful neck, her lips were closed in a blissful smile, and her shining eyes were arched by elegantly curved eyebrows. But she did not notice me.
The Bad Seeds shuffled out, they came out in twos and circled the stage, snaking through strewn equipment, to their places. A dizzying contrast from the empty, inanimate stage we were staring at for so long before the band emerged. The Bad Seeds looked like circling vultures, turning and swooping to pick up their instruments, and all along our heads darted to each one, looking for Nick, then, he appeared. Anyone that has ever seen Nick Cave before can attest to this, for having such a presence, such an imposing physique, and mythical mystique, he has a knack for sprinting onto the stage in a silent manner. Like a ghost of something. He walks faster than anyone else up there, like he is dragged by his charisma, his hump of trouble, his sack of woe. He made it straight for the microphone, and did the customary, "Hello, I'm Nick Cave" like Johnny Cash.
Such a cool introduction, as far as I'm concerned. He looked great, too. He was dressed in a long and slim fit black suit, which is how we like him. His hair was shorter than it has been in the past, but he looked very contemporary. In fact, from where I was standing, I could see bits of it were thinning in the front and on the back of the head. His eyes scanned the front, I was about fifteen feet from him, but, surprisingly, everyone just gazed back at him, nobody pushed. Everyone had their little square foot, it was all very civilized. I was expecting a tidal waive of energetic fans to Liverpool us all like sardines to the front of Nicks feet, but that did not happen. And then Nick asked us, slowly, mournfully, slower and deeper still, "Wwwwhhhhere is Mona?" And was it Blixa who whispered the news that she had been long gone? I can't say for sure, I was mesmerized, struck, the audience around me erupted into a thundering applause, we sounded like Tupelo, and then as our clapping and hooting subsided, there was only the rain-like trickle of the piano that drizzles through Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow. He asked us for Michael, he asked for Mark, "That's me!" I thought. But this was no Romper Room, this was Nick Fucking Cave.
He pogo'd around the stage, like an angry bee who was stung by himself. He darted, quaked and roared the "Na na na na na na na" and he squinted as if in pain, when he directed us, from the gut, "Save Yourself!"
He had a false start to Oh My Lord, I forgot how he flubbed it up, but he missed a line or something, so he smiled, we laughed and he started again. This was a real treat for me, because this is one of my favorite songs from No More Shall We Part. The way they did it, it was so comfortable the way it builds, how it grows and gets louder and more throbbing and how Warren Ellis scratches his Violin with his hunched back to the audience, strands of hair shake on his shoulders and he looks like a phantom, and Blixa Bargeld stepped up to him and played his guitar, his trademark screech, not to us but to Warren. I scanned the heads in front of me, and they all swayed and bounced as if all on the same hammock. I turned to the pretty girl next to me, she stood smiling, she looked like she was blissfully enjoying herself. Very pleasing.
Lime Tree Arbour, Do You Love Me (Part One), As I Sat Sadly By Her Side, and Love Letter were all played with Nick sitting down at the piano. Unfortunately for me, being only five foot five, I could barely make out his nose and forehead over the mass of shoulders in front of me. So, I instead focused on Mick Harvey and his bright red shirt and his deliberate way of concentrating on his playing. And when I wasn't watching Mick Harvey I was watching the girl on my right, who never looked at me, and I couldn't figure it out, for I was having a wonderful hair day I thought. I found it very unreasonable that she never once glanced my way. Girls are weird. But, during Red Right Hand, which was played after Lime Tree Arbour, Nick was at the front of the stage, leaning into us in his menacing way, his hand pointing down, selecting people to sing to. And he changed the lyrics a bit, he pointed to a guy not far away, and chimed as if it were always part of the song, explaining what the Devil proposes "You ain't got no money? He'll get you some. You don't like that haircut that you have? He'll get you a better one." and the crowd laughed.
We Came Along This Road was done so beautifully, though it lacked the lilting orchestration the album version has, but it is such a beautiful melody that it can hardly be said to have suffered.
After that the Bad Seeds backed up a bit and stormed into their older material, the stuff I always long for. A tease really, just two songs, The Weeping Song and Papa Won't Leave You, Henry but they were magnificent. Then it was back to the present with Hallelujah (you should see how I spelled it on my scribbled notes!). The McGarrigle sisters haunting lines at the end of the song were instead done by Nick himself, and he sounded like he meant it. Stunning.
Just then, the pretty girl I had been watching all night, who remained at my shoulder the entire evening without once noticing me, the girl with the staggering beauty lost her footing and fell down to her knees. I could feel the thud resonate in my feet. I reached down to pick her up, gently at first, I grasped on to her arm, at the elbow, such a delicate thing, like a birds leg. I felt an embarrassing surge of excitement, I must admit, that happens when you touch something beautiful. But she was dead weight, heavy and limp. The poor girl fainted from too much Nick Cave, I'm sure that happens. My friend Thomas grabbed her as well, and the two of us got her up, and she turned her head and smiled, and resumed standing on her own. It was at that time that Nick Cave sung the lines "I began to warm and chill..." the opening lines to The Mercy Seat. He barely got into it when the girl at my shoulder fell forward again, this time not to her knees, but she tilted forward, still standing and leaned awkwardly on the leather jacket of the guy in front of us, she then began to slide down, "She's falling again!" I announced and Thomas and I darted to her, trying to get a grip firm enough to hold her, but she was like jelly, she just kept slinking down, like she had no form. I was holding her now by her bicep and shoulder, and I was trying to get her arm around my neck so we could get her outta there when a big bouncer guy, one who looked like he could handle anything, appeared well-timed, out of nowhere. He grabbed her with his two giant hands, his fingers like sausages, around her waist. He fit her like a belt, and he heaved up lifting with his knees, like he has done this a thousand times. I let go, because he had better control of her slithery form. He lifted her out and took her eight feet away to a stair-ramp that served as an aisle. It was then, in that empty space where the girl once stood that Thomas and I looked at each other. I could see in his face that he was thinking what I was thinking. We were thinking shit. The poor girl had sloppily shit all over the place, and man, it didn't smell so good.
"I think..." I said, "I think she ..."
We edged out of the crowd with no difficulty at all, and passed her on the floor, she was missing her shoe, just a sock on one foot, and her feet started to kick, like she was coming-to again, I had hoped that was the case. I still do. We made it to the men's room where I discovered that my left shoe had been covered in...you know. and on the front of my pin-stripe pants were smears of it too. I must have used a thousand paper towels and half a bottle of soap during my stay there. When I finally felt decent, we exited for a smoke. The security at the door said she had been carted off, but not in an ambulance. We, Thomas, his girlfriend Samantha and I looked at eachother and tried our best to make sense of such a thing. I have often felt a singled-out notion of being cursed when it comes to the mysteries of attraction, but this was new, I had been shit on by beauty. When we felt composed again, we entered the show grabbing another well-earned drink on the way.
I thought we had missed a song. I could detect God Is In The House when I was in the bathroom, and I thought I heard Henry Lee, ironically sung without P.J. Harvey or her look-a-like audience member. When we got back towards the front, there was a giant circle empty where we once were. We crept into it, it has been sloppily mopped and sprinkled with powdery soap, but still smelled of the scene. We found a spot in the rim of the empty circle where it seemed okay to stand. A girl with red hair tapped my shoulder and warned me to watch my step, "Someone just shit there I think." she said.
"I know, she got it all over my shoe." I said smiling stupidly. My red haired friend made a face of disgust. "It's okay," I explained, "I washed it off." Her expression did not improve though.
Nick Cave announced "This is the first song we ever did together" and exploded with Saint Huck. It was brilliant and it took our minds off of the recent tragedy. After all, that's why we were there.
Then he thanked us, and walked off the stage. After much stomping and whistling, the Bad Seeds came back and Nick fastened himself at the piano for a rendition of Into My Arms, which had all the lovers in the crowd staring stupidly into eachothers eyes, mouthing the lyrics with expressions of Jim Neighbors on their exaggerated faces.
And finally, Stagger Lee. They tore into that song and made it sound dangerous with Blixa's unhuman-like squeal, it was frightening, but highly entertaining.
And that was the end.
So, there you have it, probably one of the more unpredictable events to take place in San Francisco since The Rolling Stones legendary Altamont.
P.S. I'll be wearing a different set of shoes to tonights show, if anyone is curious.