Sunday, April 07, 2013

A pleasant change of plans: Nick Cave in Vancouver

Bad cellphone photographs by Allan MacInnis

Abundant thanks to Dave Bowes and his friend Darlene for making it possible for me to go see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Vogue Theatre tonight. Nick looked great - it was hard to believe that the live footage of the Bad Seeds doing "From Her to Eternity" that appears in Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire was filmed in 1987, because when the band launched into that song tonight, 27 years later, as the segue from new material to old, Cave really didn't look all that different; if anything, he seemed a little slimmer, stronger, and healthier. And whereas many a musician who has been performing for decades resorts to formalized routines to get by, from Joe Keithley playing the guitar behind his head to Iggy Pop kicking his own ass, sacrificing a certain freshness and presence for a predictable, reliable delivery of a certain kind of performative product, Cave seemed to find each song as fresh and alive as if he'd written it a few months ago, his movements and gestures and facial expressions and jokes seeming to emerge spontaneously and freely from a passionate engagement with the material and the audience, with no suggestion that he'd probably be doing much the same thing the next night in Seattle. Amazing versions of "Jack the Ripper" and a deliciously obscene, profanity-rich, and very, very sexy "Stagger Lee" - with Cave gesturing unsubtly at his crotch as he sang of man-on-man fellatio between Stagger and Billy DeLyons (and later Satan) - were probably the high points of the night, which often saw Cave leaning into the audience, holding hands with (or apparently leaning his weight on the upraised arms of) mostly female fans.  Actually, the whole set was terrific; maybe it was just that I enjoyed hearing those two songs especially...

Whether it was a shoe or a can (as someone commented on my previous post) that Nick got pelted with at the 1990's Lollapalooza gig where I last saw him, I cannot actually say with certainty, but it was pleasing to note that the only thing thrown at him tonight appeared to be a female undergarment, during "Deanna." Oh, and a love-struck, awestruck female fan threw herself at him and got to get onstage and kiss him a couple of times. Later, someone offered up a bizarro rabbit-thing mask, eliciting a bemused "Donnie-Fucking-Darko" quip from the lanky singer, who draped the creepy object on his mike stand for half a song as we neared the encore. Still no arterial spray, but the audience sang along happily with the "whoa whoas" and "yea yeas" during "Papa Won't Leave You Henry," and issued deafening, incoherent cries for pretty much Cave's entire back catalogue when he solicited requests from his piano - the winning song being "Into My Arms." Only real surprise was the inclusion of Anita Lane and Blixa Bargeld's "Stranger Than Kindness" where "Your Funeral My Trial" would normally have been; maybe the latter song has bad memories for him, now, in this town.

The enormous shadow of Nick Cave on the Vogue wall reminded me pleasantly of the doublings that frequently appear in the novels of Cormac McCarthy, a writer I imagine Cave enjoys considerably. No doubt they inspired a few photographs much better than mine. Setlist from the night is here. It's great to replace my somewhat unhappy memory of the ill-fated Lollapalooza show with this delightful evening of poetic, dark revelry. Thanks again, Dave & Darlene!

On the bus home, listening to the Angels on my headphones, I wondered if Cave ever saw them, as a young man in Australia? I could somehow see him being a Doc Neeson fan... wishing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds a pleasant US tour...!

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