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CONCERT REVIEW: Chicago Theatre, Chicago [26/04/2002] by James O'Blivion Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

I'll just say in advance that it will be impossible for me to accurately portray how absolutely amazing this show was. The moon in the sky was full and, looking out over downtown Chicago from my room at the Hilton, I savored that fact as I realized that the Bad Seeds were the type of band that are fueled by such cosmic events.

>From there, I walked to the venue with my girlfriend Raven and my best friend of five years, the incomparable Shafty. Standing outside the theatre, we smoked cigarettes and took note of the various others who were standing and waiting for their chance to see The Man and The Band. I was far more spry this time around, as it had taken sixteen hours to drive to the last Nick Cave show I saw (his solo at the Orpheum in New Orleans), whereas this trek had taken a mere four.

It was at this point that I noticed a young man, standing by the street. I noticed him for one reason and one reason alone. I pointed him out to my companions and said to them, "if it was 1985 and he was about six inches taller, I'd be asking for his autograph." I mean, I have seen people who have vaguely resembled celebrities before, but this lad was incredible. Genetics had blessed him with an exact replica of Nick Cave's face. His name, as it turns out, is Mark, and he's a great guy and a big fan (how could he not be?).

>From there, it was into the theatre. A quick trip to the refreshments counter for a plastic cup of Heineken, then up to our seats in the front balcony. What amazing seats. I always take balcony seats at Nick's shows...the spectacle seems so much more epic that way. And what an amazing venue. The Chicago theatre is an old dramatic theatre which often hosts Broadway shows and it is absolutely stunning...sculpted pillars...painted ceiling...brilliant lighting...amazing acoustics.

I'll skip details on the opening act. They were good, but nothing truly exceptional. What's truly important, and what those who weren't there really want to hear about, is Nick taking the stage, which he did at approximately 8:30. Thunderous applause. Nick takes his seat at the piano and begins to tap out the simple yet awe-inspiring lines of "As I sat Sadly By Her Side," which is even more amazing with the Bad Seeds (who took the stage and set up gradually throughout the song) than it was at Nick's solo show...which is saying a lot.

I shan't bother to describe every song in detail, as Nick and the Seeds played for nearly two hours and it would take far too long to cover the entire gig. I will simply describe what I found to be the high points of the evening.

"O My Lord" was incredible, as I knew it would be. Starting off slowly and building to a frenzy as Nick darted about the stage, leapt over monitors, flailed like a man possessed, and howled away. "O, I hate them ALL...........for what they went and done to you." This was one of the high points from the new album to see permormed live, along with "Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow" and (of course) "Hallelujah," which were both amazing, as well.

"Red Right Hand" has always held a special place in my heart, and it's my girlfriend's favorite Nick Cave song. Having seen him live twice before, this was the first time she had seen him perform this particular song. And it was amazing, as I'm sure you can imagine, with Nick gesturing wildly with his right hand for the closing line of each verse.

"The Mercy Seat" is easily my favorite Cave song, with "Tupelo" standing at second. So to hear that song played live with the full band (he did a stripped down version at his solo show in New Orleans), and to see Nick fly about the stage in a chaotic frenzy as the song escalated to its crescendo, was amazing for me. I sat hypnotized for the entirety of the song, shaking and twitching as the song rolled on. That song, like Nick's best work, takes me to another place, very far from the constraints of any concert venue.

"The Weeping Song" was great, mainly for the chance to actually SEE Nick and Blixa's father/son exchange. It was an increible moment which I knew was coming as soon as Nick pointed out Blixa and made some mention of his special contribution to the next song.

Of course, "Papa Won't Leave You, Henry" left me speechless. It was very similar to the version on "Live Seeds," but to see it live is something quite special in and of itself.

"Do You Love Me?" was spectacular and powerful. I had heard "Part 2" (which I prefer to Part 1) at the solo show, where Nick had introduced it as "not a very popular song"...I went crazy for it then, and I went crazy for it's companion piece this time. There's just something about the line "Blood running down the inside of her legs," isn't there?

"Lime Tree Arbour" was nice, though I would have preferred "Far From Me" personally. It was great to hear him play something from "Boatman's Call," though, and Nick's delivery was as heartfelt as anything I've ever heard.

Well, I guess I've mentioned almost every song, so I'll just mention them all.

"Love Letter" was mainly exceptional for the fact that Nick had begun "And No More Shall We Part," made some minor error that no one apart from Martyn P Casey caught, tried to amend it, then said "oh, fuck it" and started this song.

The other great moment from the new album was hearing "We Came Along This Road" live. Once again, a very heartfelt rendition of a very heartfelt song. Beautiful from start to finish.

And that, to the best of my recollection, was the set. Nick thanked us all and he and his seven bandmates left the stage. The ovation then began and I was among the first to stand for this three-minute show of approval.

Nick strung us along for just long enough and then returned to center stage for "The Ship Song," a song which has always sounded better live to me than it did on "The Good Son"...and this version didn't disappoint. One of Nick's most beautiful songs...period.

Up next, some technician came out on stage in a black hooded windbreaker, holding several pieces of white posterboard, to which we all asked the question "What the HELL...????????" Nick soon put an end to our wondering when he stated "This is rather a long song, and we rarely do it without fucking up. Well...I rarely do it without fucking up." Bang..."Curse of Millhaven." And despite the fact that Nick was using cue cards (and still made three minor mistakes in the lyrics), it was astounding. Such an epic song, it was widely appreciated by all, especially when Nick began taking the time between verses to introduce the members of the band.

Then came another "thank you" and another departure. The house lights came up and the stage lights went down as we stood and applauded the Greatest Show On Earth, fairly convinced that Nick and Company were not returning this time.

As we were preparing to leave, Nick and the Seeds took to the stage one last time to deafening applause to give the audience one last treat. And what a treat it was. "Stagger Lee." Always an adrenaline pumping song, this got the crowd going like nothing else. And it was incredible to hear Blixa scream his lungs out after Billy Dilly's untimely demise. Then, of course, the add-on verse about the devil...then more screaming from Blixa. The house almost collapsed. Nick thanked us all for coming and left again, this time for good.

What was truly amazing was the sound quality. The band had a great sound crew, because Nick's vocals were never obscured...even when the music went from harmonious melodies to sonic explosion in half a beat. That's the beauty of a Bad Seeds show. Harmonies and explosions...harmonies and explosions.

All in all, quite possibly the greatest show I've ever seen. There's no way it could have been better...well, unless of course it was a SMOKING venue. But, despite my nicotine cravings, Nick's power and energy onstage, even at the age of 44, was awe-inspiring. And I've never heard eight people connect so well musically. Truly, truly incredible. If I can smoke at the next show, I'll be in heaven...or wherever it is that Nick Cave fans go.

 

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