CONCERT REVIEW: Vienna, Burg Theater [30/10/2002] by Sam
Sunday, 13 August 2006

1. The audience

A typical mix for a Nick Cave concert enhanced by the reason for the gig – 10th anniversary of the poetry academy where Nick Cave gave some readings a couple of years ago – regarding the age of the people attending (from 20 to 50, but mainly from mid-twenties to end-thirties) and the outward appearance from suits with ties over fashionable outfits up to torn blue jeans with large pullovers. Nevertheless, black colours and pleasant outfits dominated (I’m no longer familiar with white painted gothic-fans, but the tattoo in the small of the back which is every second housewife pride).

During the concert the audience was – to express it positively – attentiv, but in my opinion too quiet and distant, self-satisfied and complacent. But on the other hand the band members didn’t make it easy for the audience, especially Nick Cave, his evident bad mood couldn`t animate the people.


2. The location

The dignified “Burgtheater” is a suitable place for a Nick Cave solo-gig. Its splendid building and classical atmosphere (red velvet chairs, beautifully decorated arcades, fresco-decorated ceilings and walls), the generous stage dimensions and non-coloured but still powerful illumination – very nice. Another fact which won`t surprise you: Nick Cave was the only one who had the right to smoke or at least took it.


3. The band

Nick Cave in a brown velvet suit and white shirt, Warren Ellis and Norman Watt-Roy (ex bass-player of Ian Dury & The Blockheads) in anthracite-coloured suits, Jim White (drummer of Dirty Three) in blue jeans and white shirt. Nick Cave stood out on stage: in front and in central position at the large black-polished piano, Warren Ellis on the same level with him to his right, Norman Watt-Roy on his left but a few steps behind, and finally Jim White on a level with Norman Watt-Roy between Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

 

4. The music/The show

Jim White knows his business and played his part unemotionally – no more and no less could be expected.

Of course for Norman Watt-Roy as a new part of the line-up it was a difficult situation (the other three members played together with S. Stenger on AUS & USA-tour in 2000/01). He tried to sooth his latent unsecurity by resorting to eye-contact with Warren Ellis and Jim White but they mostly left him to his own devices. Anyway with increasing playtime he became more self-confident and therefore he deserves respect at the least.

Has anyone seen the face of Warren Ellis? During the entire concert he stood with his back to the audience. The parts where he was not playing he squatted down, his head deeply bowed, the violin in his hands and his arms stretched out. His play: great as usual, the violin partly used like a guitar. He seemed to be absent-minded but wasn’t because he showed immediate reaction when someone gave a comment to the unusual Henry Lee-version (see the setlist below).

And now to the person who had it under his control to decide if the concert would be great or not: Nick Cave. It could have been a fantastic concert - he has prooved that he could since he has already been on tour with almost the same line-up as mentioned above - but for that he would have needed to enjoy playing. But on the contrary: he seemed to be upset, worried, somehow disorganized. So, a mood that goes better with a “Bad Seeds” concert than a solo-gig where – as you could expect – the soft songs dominated and therefore a high deep intimacy with the songs is necesary. The result: the less powerful songs where the real highlights, here he was at his best: he stamped his left foot on the floor giving the rhythm, banged on the piano with almost brute force as if he wanted to take a piece of wood from a noble viennese piano as a souvenir, adding to that the fervent singing: absolutely great. His entire rage was plain to see in the last song “Jack the ripper”: it seemed at! t! he end that the only thing missing was that he pick up the piano in both hands and through it in the audience as a farewell present!

Verdict: there was no harmony to be felt, they seemed less tuned to one another – and perhaps not only regarding music. Too bad, what a pity.

The setlist:
1. The mercy seat: very good, but have heard better
2. Sad waters: after years of absence found again for solo-gigs, I think he likes that song, very good 3. Hallelujah: solide 4. Into my arms: good 5. God is in the house: solide 6. There is a kingdom: solide 7. Darker with the day: solide 8. Gates to the garden: solide 9. West country girl: a highlight
10: So far from me: as well good, I think he likes that song
11: Henry Lee:in a fast and powerful version I have never heard before, like west country girl, interesting
12: Little Janey’s gone: the low point
13: The ship song: nice that he found it again; my favourite song and because of his bad mood my personal low point, he can do that muuuuuch better!
Encores:
14: People ain`t no good: good
15: As I sat sadly by her side: solide
16: Do you love me – part 2: good
17: Jack the ripper: absolutely highlight, a worthy replacement for “Stagger Lee”

This sequence is almost the same as the setlist in Ancona in the summer of this year. Therefore it is wrong to say that Nick Cave chose the songs especially for this concert like it was boastfuly mentioned in the intro given by a member of the poetry academy.

To add to the the musical impressions here something about the behavior on stage: Nick Cave was very reserved, didn’t give any verbal introductions to the songs and didn’t answer the shouts from the audience: my god, what a difference to former solo concerts! Instead absent-mindedness while introducing his band (after N. Watt-Roy was named he started with the next song until J. White reminded him that there were more members in the band) and bad temper (someone demanded “sad waters” during the encores and he replied “Hell, we did play it” – or something similar). He was really in a bad mood – as happened sometimes to everyone. He thanked the audience two or three time standing up quickly and bowing slightly.

At the end of the concert, coming out of the light, he looked around and seemed to be surprised about the effect he brought about – the people stood and applauded. He went off and perhaps was thankful that it was over.


5. Epilogue.

If someone asks me if the visit was worth it: absolutely, yes – a great ambience, nice songs and to be present at a Nick Cave live-performance is always worth it, nevertheless a slight disappointment remains. I was for the first time in Vienna and it’s a nice city. These are my own impressions, no more and no less, and other have different ones. I am still excitedly awaiting for “Nocturama”.