Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Spiritualized, and Cat Power at the Hollywood Bowl
I recently became a fan of Nick Cave. It’s not that I wasn’t familiar with him before, but I guess you could say that I took him for granted. He was a ubiquitous figure in the goth/post-punk/alternative rock landscape, and an undeniable influence on several musicians that I love. Yet aside from the odd Birthday Party live album or compilation track, I never owned any Nick Cave records. I got into Bad Seeds offshoot The Dirty Three for awhile when I went through a long phase of only listening to incredibly sad music. Hell, I even went out and bought a Serge Gainsbourg covers album by Bad Seeds alums Mick Harvey and Anita Lane several years ago, but still no actual Nick Cave records.
All that began to gradually change over the past year or so, during which time I saw the video for “Mercy Seat” and was subjected to repeated spins of “Papa Won’t Leave You Henry” courtesy of my friends Tami & Tommy (who host a musical variety show on prime time). I started dialing the Bad Seeds in on the headphones during work, and allowing Cave’s hilarious and cryptic lyrics to invade my subconscious as I took to the daily grind.
When I heard that the Bad Seeds were playing in Hollywood with Spiritualized and Cat Power opening, my initial reaction was: “Is there a convention for recovering heroin addicts in town?” My second reaction was to admit that it was an impressive sounding lineup. One horrible experience getting ripped off at a Ticketbastard outlet in Koreatown later, and the lady and I were rocking the bleacher seats at the Bowl with a $23 bottle of white zinfandel.
We missed Cat Power’s 7:30 set due to the fact that SOME PEOPLE HAVE JOBS, but got to our bench in time for Spiritualized. I realized that it had been around 16 years since I first saw them, when they blew my mind (and blew the Jesus and Mary Chain and Curve off the stage) at the Cleveland Agora while supporting their debut Lazer Guided Melodies. After that I became a huge fan, listened to way too much Spiritualized and Spacemen 3, and began writing and recording music that bore a noticeable debt to the drone stylings of Jason “Spaceman” Pierce and his estranged former Spacemen 3 copilot Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember. This stopped after I’d lived in L.A. for a few years and noticed that every hipster with retro shades and a reto-er guitar was attempting to do the same thing – but that’s another blog entry altogether.
Spiritualized played a brief, yet solid set of material covering most of their albums (with the possible exception of Let It Come Down from 2001). Highlights for me included oldie-but-goodies “Shine A Light” (which was almost ruined by the douchebags behind me who kept talking loudly during the quiet parts), “Lay Back in the Sun” and “Come Together.” As with all large concerts, I found it hard to connect with the music onstage, as the physical size of the space creates a lack of intimacy. However, I have heard about a special secret small Spiritualized show that just might make up for it. More on that later…
Then the stage spun around, and a few minutes later Nick Cave walked out to rapturous applause. It was immediately apparent that this guy is a rock star; I can think of few of my rock’n’roll heroes who would get that kind of applause just for walking onstage. Garbed in a white dress shirt with open collar and a black suit, and sporting a handlebar mustache with his long thinning hair combed back, Cave looked like a cross between Wyatt Earp and a 70s porn “actor”. His larger-than-life persona reached all the way to the bleacher seats as he regaled the audience with tales of sex, murder and madness. The sound helped a lot, as a solid mix lent both the slow jams (of which there were several) and the rockers equal weight.
A clip from last night’s show, courtesy of MagentaStraberry on YouTube
The band tore through the bulk of their excellent new album Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, with a highlight being “We Call Upon the Author to Explain,” with it’s sudden shifts into techno-industrial dance funk (accompanied by a rave-appropriate rainbow light display) and cries of “Bukowski was a jerk!” Several Bad Seeds classics were aired, including “Deanna,” “Tupelo,” and the aforementioned “Mercy Seat” and “Papa Won’t Leave You Henry.” Upon learning that his set was being cut short due to the Hollywood Hills curfew (whatever – you people knew the Bowl was there when you moved in) and there would be no encore, Cave ended the set with a particularly profane rendition of the old murder ballad “Stagger Lee.” Using his body language to illustrate the controversial events that close his version of the song, Cave proved that he’s still a punk at heart. Even though he may be able to hang with the Hollywood elite in a luxurious concert hall, he’s still full of rage and bile, with just enough charisma and sex appeal to pass it off.
On the subway ride home, a kindly old black gentleman addressed the passengers, telling us we were all “rats.” He then said, “I hereby decree that everyone will have the day off tomorrow! Goodbye, rats!” and hopped off the train. As we were leaving the station, a woman collapsed on the ground. We hung back to make sure she was ok, as a subway attendant shrugged and said “I don’t know Spanish.” There were no stabbings or bludgeonings, so overall it was a good public transit experience.
(Thanks to Housecat for help with this entry.)
Here’s a link that my friend Bill sent me to an old NME interview with Nick Cave, Mark E. Smith and Shane MacGowan! And I think one of the interviewers was Sean O’Hagan from the High Llamas. Pretty hilarious stuff.