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CONCERT REVIEW: Toronto, Kool Haus [28/04/2002] by Johanna Macdonald Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
The (stupidly-named) Kool Haus, Toronto
April 28, 2002
Tickets: $32.50
Warren's Suit: probably cheaper

Me: That's Nick Cave!
Brain: That's right, you're at a Nick Cave concert.
Me : That's Warren Ellis!
Brain: That's right, you're at a Dirty Three concert.
Me: Uh, what? Wait! There's Blixa! Blixxxxxaaaaaaaa!
Brain: That's right, you're at a Neubauten concert. You're in three places at once.
Me: How is that possible?
Brain: Uh, no information on this. I'm shutting down. *thunk*

But for a more in-depth look at the concert now. Arrived on-scene at 6:00 to the most horrible half-snow half-rain yuck of a weather I'd ever had in a concert line-up. Fortunately, most other people couldn't be arsed to stand outside on a day like that, too, so we ended up waiting behind about 18 other people for two hours, which went relatively quickly once C, I, Jon and his friends got into conversations about What Cover You'd Like to Hear (Rock Lobster and Love Potion #9 were winners), as well as starting a rumour about Nick Cave and immaculate conceptions (any woman in his presence for 30 minutes or more becomes pregnant ... someone had the idea to wait for a quiet part and shout out "Dad!" just to see if he looked). Inside was nice and warm, and I plunked myself in front of the Blixa area of the stage (slightly right of centre), next to two German ladies who had been following the entire North American tour and were having a blast. They were good conversation partners and very nice to boot.

Neko Case came on at 9:pm, together with Tommy the bassist (who always looked like he was going to cry) and Johnny on banjo and lap steelie (every time his solo got applause, he'd throw his head back with wild laughter). Between the two of them I'm sure Neko has all of her moods taken care of. She gave a great set of short songs, with lots of good banter and humour between the songs. She wins the award for most good-naturedness onstage, and her haunting voice set the stage well for something creepier, more intense, and more Australian to come along. Mind you, by 10:pm I was really starting to hurt in the lower back department.

And then. I don't remember them coming onstage, I only remember an onslaught of people followed by an onslaught of noise. They started with "As I Sat Sadly by Her Side," which I usually don't class in the loud department, but someone came on and just started playing, and then there was another instrument, and suddenly a bass, and a violin, and another keyboard - I could have sworn they were all up there each playing his own little song, but magically everything they played worked together. Nick was as tall as possible. Warren only looked better-dressed than the average Dirty Three gig. And Blixa - I mean, he's gone from wailing smackie to portly pouting kraut, and wore these ridiculous sunglasses almost the whole show, but I was mesmerised. Here I've spent ages convincing myself that artists are people like anyone else, and only on MTV do they become minor deities, but some kind of hero worship was coursing through my veins last night.


Mick Harvey is incredibly striking. The whole rhythm section is a godsend of solid rock - the messy, flamboyant factor seems to have its own special degree from zero to Warren in every single band member, and they just mesh. And from then on in it was noise, noise, noise, noise in the most beautiful sense. "Do You Love Me," the second number, threatened to take the top of my head off and leave me with nothing but a smoking hole where my brain used to be. This would be, of course, when it finished pulling my stomach up through my lungs. I thought I was actually going to faint - my teeth were chattering uncontrollably and I felt like someone was sitting on top of my chest, possibly playing a tympanum at the same time. I have no idea why, but right now I'd give anything to have that feeling back. I've never seen so much energy onstage - never.


The Dirty Three have that energy when they're playing live, and Neubauten have it (if in a slightly more German fashion), but never before have I seen people like that onstage who are all capable of mustering up that kind of buzz from each other, and from the audience, and then giving it back. Nick Cave is an incredible showman - constantly in motion, singing every song like he's reliving the horror of its characters, pointing his gun-shaped fingers into the audience and accusing us of being there with him before begging for forgiveness. He gives 200% of himself into every moment of the show, but he's also not navel-gazing while he's doing it; he gives all that energy to his bandmates and especially to the audience. They couldn't make a drug to match this experience.

Among the highlights would have to be "Papa Won't Leave You, Henry," (and I thought the version on Live Seeds was intense. That's Dolly Parton compared to last night's scream), "Red Right Hand," ... "Hallelujah" had a nice surprise when all the instruments cut out for the only ten seconds of vocal-only Bad Seedery, and it was still a bit of a shocker to realise that they were dead on time, dead on key, blended very well, and were obviously actually listening to each other. Sounds strange, perhaps, but sometimes they really look like they're doing whatever they want. Like in the encore, they started into "The Ship Song," and Nick made a whose-idea-was-that face, and I think someone pointed to Mick Harvey, and Nick followed that with an I-wanted-to-play-something-else face in the fashion of the truly usurped.


"The Mercy Seat" (too short to be really and truly as satisfying - I was just getting into the pain threshold in my ears when they finished, but fun when Nick introduced it as a song by Johnny Cash), "Love Letter" was particularly beautiful (my brother Cam had a heartstring or two cut loose by the plaintive rendition), and of course I gave it up like a mad fool for "The Weeping Song," as Blixa finally got to sing. They played "Saint Huck," which I'd never heard before, and is apparently the first song ever recorded by the Bad Seeds. They looked a bit like all the naughtiest boys in school getting back for a reunion to plan something really, really evil. Like they'd known that song since they were born.

Trying to make eye contact with Blixa Bargeld is very much like trying to stare down a philosophy prof with whom you're hopelessly in love - an impossibility. He frightened the hell out of me, and I kept coming back for more. The last song, "Stagger Lee," is actually a Nick Cave standard with which I'm very unfamiliar, and I think that only heightened how much I loved it. Everyone onstage, perhaps knowing it was the last number or maybe it was all the wine onstage kicking in, was having a grand old time grooving along to it, until the final rush of everyone's loud-as-you-can - Blixa's beautiful high-pitched screaming into the microphone sent me finally back into fainting mode, Nick screamed along with him, Conway Savage wouldn't have known if he was hitting a keyboard or chopping a watermelon with his bare hands - all that mattered was the noise, Warren Ellis coming down off his perch, still never facing the audience, his violin-crooked back heaving while the bow seemed to be the only thing grounding his feet to the floor. If you've never seen Warren Ellis launch a gob of spit from the front of the stage to the back curtain a good 20 feet away - without losing any altitude, mind you - then you've never seen the Dirty Three. I'll bet half the Houses of Rock in the world have Warren's DNA on the ceiling.


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