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CONCERT REVIEW: Chicago Theatre, Chicago [26/04/2002] by Mechanic Priest Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

As a great admirer of Nick Cave for several years now, I was of course more than a little excited to see the show at the Chicago Theater. For various reasons, I almost didn't go to this show, but I decided to take a chance and buy a ticket. And am I glad I did.

The show was fantastic, one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I've loved pretty much every concert I've been to, but this show was the only concert where I've been truly awestruck. Not that it was necessarily better than the others, but this show just really had something special about it.

I arrived at the Chicago Theater about halfway through the opening act. I opted to stand in the lobby and look dark and mysterious as opposed to finding my seat. Lots of other dark and mysterious individuals walked by (the only difference between us being that I don't have piercings), and I also saw the gentleman who looks like a young Nick Cave. After the opening act finished, I decided to find my seat, since it's generally a good wait between the opening and headlining acts, and I was pretty tired.

Much to my surprise, only about 20 or so minutes after the opening set, the lights dimmed and Nick Cave himself walked out onstage. He said a brief hello to the audience, sat down at the piano and began playing "As I Sat Sadly By Her Side". Slowly, the other band members joined in as the song progressed. I sat there, completely mesmerized, my mouth literally hanging open. I wasn't prepared to be so overwhelmed, but there I was.

After finishing their absolutely beautiful rendition of this song, the band started to play "Do You Love Me?", which I had always hoped to see them perform live. It lived up to its promise. Nick Cave stood at the front of the stage, bathed in red light, his giant shadow cast on the wall next to him like some deformed monster. "As I Sat Sadly By Her Side" set the tone, but the show truly came alive during this song.

The show progressed, with one amazing performance after another. During "Oh My Lord," Nick Cave wailed and moved his arms like a possessed preacher telling us to repent. "Lime Tree Arbour" was appropriately stripped down and very moving. "Hallelujah," with Warren Ellis' beautiful violin-playing and Nick Cave singing the McGarrigle sisters' end part, was especially entrancing. "God is in the House" managed to be both beautiful and hilarious (yes, I heard your scream, whoever you are), and "We Came Along This Road" was again amplified by Warren Ellis' haunting violin (and he manages to upstage Nick, even when playing with his back to the audience, which is much of the time).

Nick Cave himself is an amazing performer. His singing and movements are impassioned, but he also has a great sense of humor. He kept false-starting "Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow," making this hilarious face of confusion to the band. During "Red Right Hand," he singled out two guys who had just arrived up front. Instead of singing "You don't got no car / he'll get you one," he instead spit out "You don't like the guy ya came here with / he'll get you another one," much to everyone's delight.

The band played classics like "The Weeping Song," "The Mercy Seat" and a highly energetic "Papa Won't Leave You, Henry," all of which were more than well-received by the audience. The whole time, I just could not believe I was actually witnessing this. I'd always wanted to hear these songs live, and here they were, like a dream literally come true.

The only bad part of the show came during "Love Letter." Nick attempted to play "And No More Shall We Part" but then quickly aborted the effort. As this happened, two guys sitting near me started yelling at each other about some stupid thing. After Nick began "Love Letter," these guys actually attacked each other, one of them jumping out of his seat and apparently charging the other one. They proceeded to fight, and one of them started attacking whoever tried to restrain him, punching people and knocking them into other rows. It not only ruined "Love Letter" for anyone sitting in our section, but was actually rather frightening. He and his girlfriend were finally thrown out, which is why our section was applauding in the middle of the song. Unfortunately, we only got to really hear about the last 30 seconds of "Love Letter". Of all the songs to fight during!

The main set ended and, after much applause and cheering, the band returned to play "The Ship Song" and "The Curse of Millhaven". I was practically praying to hear "Millhaven," and I knew my prayer was answered when I saw the guy with the cue cards. This song was simply amazing live. Nick actually got through it without many mistakes, and using the song to introduce each band member actually made it even better.

The band left again, and we continued cheering for a second encore. Unfortunately, the house lights came up, which is almost always a definite sign that the show is over, go home. As people finally gave up hope and started leaving, the band quickly returned to the stage for a version of "Stagger Lee" that nearly toppled the theater. The crowd went apeshit for Blixa's famed shriek(which sounds like a dental drill on sheet metal), and for Nick's new final verse of the song.

I left the show in a daze, practically blown out of my shoes. I went back to my hotel room that night and I could not wipe the smile from face (sorry, I know that was corny, but it's true). Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds delivered in every way possible.

By the way, while many of us on the floor level did sit for most of the main set, I don't think it demonstrated a lack of enthusiasm. You could practically feel the energy in the room, even if people weren't dancing. And admittedly, I'm glad people were sitting, because it gave me the chance to actually see the stage for most of the show, and to get a good look at Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for the first and, if he doesn't cut back on those cigarettes soon, perhaps only time.


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