Twenty years. That's how long it's been since Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have been to Vancouver for a show. And for ten of those years, I have been a fan. In fact, they are one of my all time favourite bands, so not having seen them live was a top of the proverbial must-see-list. Sure, Grinderman was here a couple years ago, but even though the side project featured Cave with Bad Seeds Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey, and Jim Sclavunos, it was just not quite the same.
But after years of waiting, they finally returned to Vancouver touring the new album, Push The Sky Away, for a show at the Vogue Theatre. And to say I was exited would be a vast understatement (if you follow me on the twitters, you know how obnoxiously eager I was for it).
I was also excited for the opening act, Toronto's Basia Bulat. On the surface, the folky singer/songwriter may have been an odd choice to open, but from what I saw of her, she rose to the occasion.
Sadly, I missed about half of her set -- the Vogue was doing a new thing where all the tickets were held at will call, which is a great idea to crack down on scalpers, but it caused a bit of a lineup getting in.
I caught the last three songs, and with just Basia & with her autoharp on stage, her powerful voice and rollicking songs like "Heart of My Own" winning over the crowd.
She teased a new album with her last song, swapping her autoharp for an acoustic guitar, and playing the title track to the album due out in the fall. Hopefully that means she'll be back before long, since her set (or what I caught of it) was much too short.
Then, after much anticipation, the lights went down at 9 sharp and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds came out one by one, Cave last, kicking off with a few songs from the new album. The melodic "We No Who U R" starting things off soft, and the tempo stayed the same for the beginning of "Jubilee Street", before it exploded with energy by the end.
Cave is possibly the most charismatic frontman I have ever seen perform. When he wasn't behind the piano -- which was most of the set -- he was stalking the front of the stage, back and forth like a sinister preacher. Frequently perched at the edge of the stage, he would lean in, grab people's hands, sing directly to them; he was even offered up a harmonica necklace by one fan right up front, which he not only took and wore, but played for the intro of a song.
But of course passion alone does not necessarily make a show great, and they definitely had the music -- and musicians -- to back it up. Jim Sclavunos was a monster on drums, and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis was brilliant as always. The setlist spanned the band's entire career, going all the way back to their first album from 1984 with the title track to From Her To Eternity and many song in-between. It was also as diverse as the band's repertoire, from the beautiful "Love Letter" to the sinister "Red Right Hand" to the all out rocker "Deanna".
The two songs that most highlighted the extremes were also two of the highlights of the set. While Cave was at the piano, he asked for requests and after a cacophony of song titles, he went with the absolutely gorgeous, beautiful, and heartbreaking "Into My Arms", and a few songs later, he ended the main set with the frantic "Stagger Lee", a murderous ballad with Cave graphically pantomiming the sex & violence in the song's narrative with wild abandon.
After thunderous applause, they were of course back out for an encore of a couple songs, another old song "Tupelo", and the title track from the new album Push The Sky Away, leaving us with the fitting line "Some people say it's just rock 'n' roll / Ah, but it gets you right down to your soul"
There is a reason Nick Cave is legendary, and he more than proved it at the Vogue. I have seen bands half the age of Cave with much, much less energy. He worked the crowd like no other, and even though the set was nearly two hours, I still didn't want it to be over.
This wasn't just the show of the year, it was the show of a lifetime.
We No Who U R; Jubilee Street; Wide Lovely Eyes; Higgs Boson Blues; From Her To Eternity; Red Right Hand; Stranger than Kindness; Deanna; Jack the Ripper; Papa Won't Leave You, Henry; Love Letter; Into My Arms; Weeping Song; The Mercy Seat; Stagger Lee.
(encore) Tupalo; Push the Sky Away.