CONCERT REVIEW: Chicago Theater, Chicago [21/06/2003] by Auburn
Sunday, 13 August 2006

Living in Atlanta, one may question the sensibility of driving 10 hours to Chicago to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, loved live performer or not. Added to the mix is the uncertainty of the Seeds' live show sans Blixa Bargeld. But if there's one thing history has taught, its that the Seeds, in any incarnation, do not disappoint. And Nick Cave does not hit the road without a vision in mind and the methods he will employ to pull it off. I made the drive. I was not disappointed. In fact, it was the strongest I've ever seen them.

Taking the stage to a thunderous, sold-out applause, Nick made the obvious known as he waved greetings: "Blixa's not here...Blixa is gone." And he assumed his place at the piano to begin the opening notes of "Wonderful Life." It was easily identified before the song even reached its chorus: Blixa's departure, in a strange sort of way, has brought the Seeds closer together. Cohesive is one thing but the band seemed to be a singular entity, beating and pulsating around the atmospheric groove of Martyn Casey's bass.

Following that was a flat out blistering version of "Red Right Hand," punctuated with Jim Sclavunos' explosive percussion and then the up tempo and manic flurry of "West Country Girl." And it was at this point I realized that Warren Ellis is the new weapon of the band. We all love Blixa and miss him dearly but Warren Ellis' violin is as good as another guitar. Better, in fact. With shreiks and moans I thought not capable of any musical instrument, let alone a violin, Ellis breaks the bank not only on this song but throughout the show. "Hallelujah," "Bring it On (sung with Chris Bailey)," "Still in Love," "From Her to Eternity," and "Wild World" find the Dirty Third making his violin sound at times like a murder victim screaming for help before succumbing to death and at others like a child begging for love and affection.

Thomas Wydler and Jim Sclavunos switched on drums and percussion all night long but the two together provide the perfect necessity of breathing wonderful vibrant life into this machine called the Bad Seeds that Nick Cave fronts. Mick Harvey has done a splendid job of manning the main guitar parts, particularly on "Tupelo" and new, or at least temporary, Bad Seed Steve Barron did a fine job assisting him when he wasn't teaming with the brilliant and underrated Conway Savage on organ. And from the beginning, you could tell that Nick had his groove on, be it pouncing all over the stage like a madman during "Do You Love Me?" or breathing an earnest contemplative reflection into "Sad Waters."

The beautiful tour rarity of "Loom of the Land" and the revamped and building "The Mercy Seat" prepared us for the main set's finale: a wicked, chilling version of "Christina the Astonishing" that silenced the crowd to the point where a pin dropping would have been heard, the out of control desire of "From Her to Eternity" that brought the house down as Mick nailed Blixa's guitar work, and culminating with the insane Birthday Party march of "Wicked World." And Nick and the Seeds said goodnight and retired only briefly before coming back.

For the first encore, the band eased into an elegant version of the soul searching "Nobody's Baby Now" and one person in this audience of mostly under 25 makeup laden goths had to voice their unhappiness at Nick's line of "unraveling the mystery of Jesus Christ our Savior." Nick didn't notice. Or pretended not to. And then the atmosphere became a fist-pumping festive party as the Seeds launched into the driving confessional of "Deanna," a mosh pit developing in the process. And then again they said goodnight.

After nearly 4 minutes the band returned to the stage and Nick delivered his best one-liner of the night. As Nick was taking a seat at the piano a fan yelled "We love you, Nick!" Nick leaned into the mike and said "I love you too" and after a moment of thinking about it added "perhaps not quite as much..." and smiled. And thus began "God is in the House" as the crowd voiced their approval. Beginning the third verse, Nick forgot the words and simply chuckled as he sat in the dead quiet theater waiting for them to come to him and muttered "shit." Joyous laughter echoed out as they finally came to him. While its standing ovation was still going on, Nick got his lyric sheets ready and the band launched into "Babe, I'm on Fire" as pandemonium ensued. And while Mick Harvey popped his guitar strings and Warren Ellis shredd his violin string and bow, the patrons of the Chicago Theater were in a mass harmony of glee celebrating the culmination of this catharsis known as a Nick! Cave and the Bad Seeds show. And for 15 minutes the song moved towards its end. And the end of the show. After acknowledging Chris Bailey and Steve Barron, Nick doled out a heartfelt thanks to the standing audience, smiled, waved, and stated "See you again...sometime." Two hours gone by in what seems the blink of an eye, all of us ready for two hours more. Our show was over.

For all of the changes the Bad Seeds have went though in their lives, Bargeld's loss is the toughest to endure. Blixa held the keys to so many wonderful sounds in his guitar. But Warren Ellis has proved that he is equal to that task. Nick Cave will always grow and develop and continue to excite and enthrall as an artist but very little mention is made of the Bad Seeds. But they too continue to develop and cast off old skins so that they might show their new ones. In many ways, this tour is as important for them as it is for Nick. And they have passed with flying colors, Nick Cave the teacher that hands out an A+ to his audience every night.

Wonderful Life/Red Right Hand/West Country Girl/Hallelujah/Sad Waters/Tupelo/Bring It On/Do You Love Me?/Still In Love/Loom Of The Land/The Mercy Seat/Christina The Astonishing/From Her To Eternity/Wild World

Noboby's Baby Now/Deanna

God Is In The House/Babe, I'm On Fire