Review: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in San Francisco

The night before last I went to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds live in concert at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.  Holy shit, that man performs like he’s much younger than he is.  I’m not the most experienced concert-goer–that distinction belongs to my distinguished colleague and co-writer, a seasoned veteran of a number of momentous concerts, including Rick Ro$$, Birdman, and Drake–but I went to a music festival one time, and those performances didn’t have shit on Nick Cave.  At 55, he energetically spidered around stage with alacrity.  His style of movement while performing is difficult to describe, but I will endeavor to do so:  imagine a really angry flamingo and a particularly mobile crab were to cross-bread, give the resultant offspring a voice weighted down with gravelly bass and moves like Jagger, and you have a poor verbal account of Nick Cave.  An undeniably gifted song-writer whose talents have not only served his own music but also movies like The Proposition and Lawless, Cave is also a (surprise) talented musician and an entertaining performer.  He transitioned between vocals and piano seamlessly.  On an unrelated, but thoroughly amusing note, dude spits everywhere on stage like he’s coughing up a lung.

Sharon von Etton quietly opened for Cave.  She was accompanied by an incredibly passionate drummer.  Several dedicated minutes of Google perusal have failed to yield his name, sadly (it was similarly difficult to uncover the identity of the children’s choir that performed with Cave and the Bad Seeds).  If any hero from the internet is bored and curious enough, you should totally find out if he has his own act.  No, not a four-piece band of which he is the spiritual leader, but a one-man drum show.  Put this guy in front of a stripped down drum-kit and imagine that each drum hit has a falcon punch level of windup that finally connects as though intended to melt into the head of the drum.  A virtuoso, if there ever was one.  I shed a tear.  For her part, Ms. von Etton was wonderfully competent.  As the above-linked wikipedia article reveals, other reviewers have described her sound and message with a sufficiently tiresome string of paradoxical equivocations.  She told the audience that she’d written one very sad, slow song about moving back into her parents house (the one before was about moving to New York) in her early twenties.  As someone faced with the same grim prospect, but not weighed down with any muse to speak of, I’m impressed at the level of emotion she was able to muster in response to these earth-shaking upheavals in her life.

But to return to the man of the hour, Cave is a monster.  I will admit, I did not exactly volunteer to come to his concert.  Both of my siblings (the oldest, in particular) are diehard fans.  Cave’s music accompanied my brother through the straits of adolescence, and he was, to say the least, thrilled to go.  I’ve listened to most of Cave’s music as a result, and when I was younger it scared the shit out of me.  It’s strong stuff, and Cave’s delivery of it was great.  He interacted with the crowd throughout the concert, slapping palms and even tearing apart a bouquet of roses that some enterprising concert-goer thought to give him.  The Bad Seeds matched Cave’s intensity.  The guy (too lazy to wikipedia that shit) conducting the violins looked like he was saber-fighting an imaginary lion, and the gentleman on the fiddle had his whirling dervish game on point.  Conclusion: Nick Cave is a beast and the Bad Seeds will rock your socks off.  Go buy their shit.  They’re mostly Australian and Cave himself lives in London with his model wife (to whom he penned one of the songs he performed last night).  Hell, go to Australia and see him live if you can, but be careful.  As the rest of the internet has repeatedly pointed out, Australia is a scary fucking place that will, in all likelihood, kill you if you stay there long enough.

I only have two more points to make before I shed this here verbal coil.  One, San Francisco crowds suck a bag of dicks, to quote a famous comedian.  I noticed this the last time I went to a concert in San Francisco proper.  I saw Delta Spirit and Fidlar together a while ago.  Delta Spirit is a little more relaxed that Fidlar, but some of their songs go hard.  Fidlar is music for getting fucked up and going ham to, and even if it isn’t really your thing, I believe we can all agree that when youre in motherfucking Rome, you should do as the Romans do.  Let loose a little, for Christ’s sake.  Fidlar’s songs are generally about doing frightening amounts of cocaine and partying Oakland-style, but their performance only elicited stoic expressions and tighter grips around their captive girlfriends’ shoulders from the Giants-fitted-hat-wearing young men at the venue.  I had thought, until two nights ago, that this was but a regrettable, isolated incident.  Clearly I was wrong.  The audience at Nick Cave’s concert was similarly lethargic.  I can see only two possibilities.  Either their catatonic response (this excludes the dedicated fans in the front row–I doff the cap I will never in my life wear to you) was due to their advanced age (on the wrong side of 25–that is to say, younger–I represented the youngest demographic by far), or to the fact that, apparently, every venue in San Francisco sucks as much life out of its audience as it does the color from their skin.  Second, you should go somewhere else to read a really stirring account of this concert.  Cursory internet trawling has rewarded me with two stunning gems of music-reviewing eloquence.  I am doing so very many things wrong.  Take notes, bitches.  The writer of the first article is first struck by Cave’s “fine suit.”  Amen brother, I too love a fine suit, especially on my musical idols.  He goes on to describe Cave’s performance as a stunning exhibition of “Cave-like madness.”  Nick Cave, being Cave-like?  Go figure.  Apparently Nick Cave “won the night”.  Man, fucking winning.  Yes.  Also, I realize I should use the word “glib” more.  All these years, I thought the only person who might have to defend himself against accusations (from a temporarily exasperated pack of adoring readers) of being “glib,” was this guy.  The second dude has three of Cave’s albums (THREE!), and was, purportedly, first wowed by Cave’s skillz “while nursing a $1 PBR at EJ’s in Portland, in 1997.”  As a former resident of that great city, I can promise our dear readers that both our reviewer’s choice of alcohol and apparent collection fetish are region-appropriate.  The review goes on to make daring use of the word “salacious” and briefly theorizes (its illuminating, I promise) about the original intent of rock n’ roll.  I took an English class in college once too, bro.  I readily admit my own prose is made of ass, and, like every other 20-something with a keyboard and fingers, I love adjectives, and I love adverbs even more; but you gentlemen should have a disclaimer.  The sad thing is that I realize that these fellows are doing the same thing I’m doing with a day off work, for work…for money.  I stand shoulder to shoulder with Titans, and find myself humbled.

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