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CONCERT REVIEW: The Warfield, San Francisco [17/06/2003] by BloodHatchet Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

For my birthday, my girlfriend Katie took me to my first Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds show at The Warfield in downtown San Francisco on June 17. Our ticket came through the mail on the morning of the show, much to our relief. Nothing was mentioned on the tickets about opening bands, so it was a little exciting to see the marquee as we rolled into town.

Freakwater, or Freshwater (the former was on the marquee, and the latter appeared on various posters and merchandise inside) were the openers, and I presume that they were fairly local. They presented a Dixie Chicks-esque set of slow-paced bluegrass/pop. It was decent, except the lyrics were indistinguishable over the din of the crowd, so almost all of their songs sounded like one long ramble. I like a little more energy in a live performance, and they didn't really have it.

Next up was Chris Bailey, of The Saints fame. His solo set was markedly more energetic, as he strummed his acoustic and wailed soulfully through some covers and original material. After having heard "Bring it On" when it came out, and now seeing him live, I vowed to myself to check out more of his stuff.

After a very short intermission (the Bad Seeds's instruments were already set up), the headliners took the stage like they owned it, and own it they did. What followed was an amazing 16-song set of material from all eras of Cave's career, most of it slightly or completely different from the recorded counterparts.

Two percussionists were present, and I assumed them to be Sclavunos and Wylder, but I couldn't see them that good. I didn't recognize the new organist/guitarist, but he did well chipping in with Harvey on backing vocals. Warren Ellis looked like an insane violinist, hardly facing the croud and gesturing wildly as he abused his instrument, shredding boughs and picking it like a ukulele with his fingers. I assume it was Casey on bass, but he must have grown long hair, because the guy was shaggy. Conway Savage did a beautiful job on piano, taking the lead whenever a song called for Cave to throw himself around the stage with his signature dance while singing.

After a gracious "Thank You" from Nick, the band hit us with "It's a Wonderful Life", complete with smoky purple lighting to complement the purple fields of the song. Another thanks, and then came a murderous version of "Red Right Hand", replete with thunderous rythm, new lines and verses mixed in, and enough red lighting to shrivel the cones in your eyes.

A fast-paced version of "West Country Girl" followed, and then one of my favorites, "Hallelujah", which was almost like the album version, except at the end Cave bellowed the lines normally sung by the McGarrigles, and it sounded great.

Next, "Still In Love" from the new album, which I haven't listened to much, but I liked the grim yet hopeful scene depicted by the song. "Tupelo" came next, minus the drawn-out, disjointed intro I was used to.

At this point, Chris Bailey came out as Nick introduced him, saying that he had "come a long way," and chuckling. Guess what song was next. "Bring it On" sounded a lot like the album, but with that live intensity you get from a concert. Next was "Do You Love Me", obviously a crowd favorite. A minimalist version of "The Loom of Land" followed, and then "The Mercy Seat", another crowd-pleaser.

One of my least-favorite songs, "Christina the Astonishing" came after, and it sounds a lot better live than on the album. The signature "From Her to Eternity" was next, minus the shrill noises you hear on the recorded version. The set closed with the old song by The Birthday Party, "WildWorld", and I doubt that more than 75% of the crowd had ever heard of it or The Birthday Party.

The band left the stage and the crowd began the age-old ritual of re-conjuring the band from the magical depths of stage right for an encore. We were treated to a beautiful version of "Into My Arms", bringing Katie to tears (a first for her), it being her favorite Seeds song. A tough song to follow, a rough, punky version of "Deanna" was merely good, but not great.

Again they left, and again we stamped, clapped and screamed, begging for a return. I imagine the band must have wanted an uninterupted smoke break, as they were gone a full ten minutes. Many idiots left, thinking the show was over, but the majority of the crowd cleverly noted that the roadies were setting up the mic-stands, not taking them down, and we knew it was only a matter of time.

Eventually, they strutted back on stage. A roadie accompanied them with a stack of laminated papers, and I thought maybe they were the band's setlists and he was going to give them to the crowd, but it turned out to be the verse lyrics for "Babe I'm On Fire". I guess with all of the reported missing verses from the song, Nick needed a little help remembering where he was at. It seemed to be a free-for-all for the band, and I think Nick eved screwed up a couple of times, but no one cared, because it was best fifteen minute episode of madness that anyone had ever seen end such an amazing show. Katie and I vowed to see these incredible performers whenever possible, and kicked ourselves for never having seen them before. 


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