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CONCERT REVIEW: Gaiety Theatre, Dublin [28/03/1999] by Paula McDermott Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

After missing out on tickets for the initial date, I managed to get my hands on tickets for an extra matinee performance on Sunday 28th of March. It was my first Nick Cave concert. . I scoped the bar during pre-gig drinks to check out the other punters, they ran the gamut from distinctly cool to decidedly weird to slightly frumpy. When we eventually dragged ourselves from the bar we were greeted by the mad fiddling antics of Warren Ellis of the Dirty Three. Sandwiched between Warren’s fey intros was some of the most powerful and definitely the loudest violin playing I’ve ever heard. Warren coloured his act with his own special brand of line-dancing, occasionally lying on his back and sticking his feet in the air, spitting and leaping wildly. And all the time he kept his back defiantly towards the audience. But hey, the guy had a great sense of humour.

Warren’s bizarre performance stirred up the crowd to fever pitch and then, out came the man himself. Impressively clad in a smart black suit and crisp white shirt he wasted no time kicking off the show with a mad piano-accompanied version of "West Country Girl".

What followed next was a dissertation on "The Love Song". Aided by a PowerPoint presentation, Nick held forth on the creative process, influences on his writing and the inherent sadness of all great love songs. He spoke of the qualities of "saudade" and "duende" as embodied by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Tom Waits. To illustrate some of his points, Nick used examples such as Lou Reed’s "Perfect Day" and former collaborator Kylie Minogue’s "Better The Devil You Know". At one point, an audience member concerned that the show would be all talking and no singing roared out "Sing us a song!", our Nick cooly rebutted, "No! Fuck you!" to tumultuous applause from the house.

His next number was a brilliant rendition of "People Ain’t No Good". I have to say that the quality of Nick’s voice live is absolutely amazing. His passion and musicianship blew us all away. Nick went on to share with us his obsession for writing love letters as a preface to a new song entitled "Love Letter". It didn’t exactly rock my world, but I’d need to hear it again before commenting further. Another song I was unfamiliar with was a song about someone called Mary. A pleasant enough ditty but perhaps a little short on "duende". The dark and wonderful "Do You love Me?" saw us back on familiar territory.

"Into My Arms" lent itself perfectly to the small band of musicians and the intimate setting of the Gaiety Theatre. Then Nick gave us some insight into the genesis of his next number, the beautiful "Far From Me". He explained that the song charted the ups and downs of an ill-fated four month romance; with whom was the question?

My unfortunate proximity to the door of the bar was very distracting as it opened and closed excessively throughout the performance. That and the inane rantings of a nutcase in the row in front of me must have got to Nick too as he made three abortive attempts to sing an unidentified song (possibly a new one). He just couldn’t get the key right. A generous, if slightly irreverent Irish audience made light of the gaff. Nick was slightly baffled by exhortations of "Go wan yah good ting!" from the audience. Things settled down again during a great performance of that powerful song, "The Mercy Seat".

Next was the wistful tale of jealousy and murder "Henry Lee". Nick managed quite well without the fabulous PJ Harvey but it could have done with a woman’s touch. Perhaps his female bass player should have a stab at it (pardon the pun).

The encores came far too soon, as the end always does. But like Vanessa William’s, Nick had saved the best till last. The rip roaring ballad "Stagger Lee" turned the air blue while simultaneously bringing the house down.

To close, the haunting "Ship Song" made us all feel that a little history had indeed been made that day. Like at the end of any successful, date we were left wanting more. I walked out into the eerie daylight determined to get my hands on The Murder Ballads CD and never to sit too close to the bar again.


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