Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds in Edmonton (Concert Review)

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds in Edmonton (Concert Review)

Wow.

Incredible.

Amazing.

A true musical experience.

There might not be enough superlatives out there to describe the concert put on by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Northern Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton last night (June 28, 2014). There were several moments during the show, when you could truly feel that you were witnessing something absolutely incredible.

To start, this was my first time seeing Nick Cave, and hopefully it won’t be the last. I had never been a massive fan of his music. Not that I didn’t like it, or care for it, but I didn’t really know all about him. Sure, I had dabbled every few years with his music, but then I moved on. With such a long and distinguished career, sometimes it is intimidating getting into an artist that you discover so far along in the journey. I had listened to albums over the years, like a brief obsession I had with Murder Ballads when it came out, and I had even read Cave’s first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, but I wouldn’t call myself a massive fan.

Well, I think that has changed now.

After the opening act (Reggie Watts), a strange combination of comedy and music that was a definite odd choice as an opener, but he had the crowd laughing and questioning what we were really watching, the band took the stage after a brief break. The Jubilee is usually a fancy place, where people sit in their seats with their fancy clothes, and known for its incredible acoustics. Well, the venue is perfect for Cave. The great sound really came across from the very start of the show, and it made the music that much more powerful. The entire bottom section of the auditorium stood for the whole show, and the first few rows rushed up to the stage, where the very interactive lead singer spent most of his time in very close proximity to his fans. Note: if you are looking to go to a show, and want to be right there, try to get seats right up close on the left or right edge of the stage; this is where he spent the majority of the show, often singing directly to a fan or touching them.

nick caveGetting going a little past 8:30 PM, the band played until about 11:00, for a lengthy, two-and-a-half hour set that included a five song encore. In total, they played 19 songs, which is a delicious chunk of music. They varied their song selection from their illustrious career, while playing six songs from the newest album, Push the Sky Away.

Beginning the show with the sedate “We Know Who U R,” things quickly changed, and the first true “Wow” moment of the show came with the second song, “Jubilee Street.” Here, the crowd witnessed Cave at his demonic, rock-god best. The band perfectly played the softness and the beastliness of the song to perfection, Cave oozing with an intense passion, bordering on evil, as the song cascaded upwards, truly mesmerizing the audience. We heard for the first time how loud the band could be, and how powerful that could be in such a small venue. It was nothing short of intense. From the final chords of the lengthy “Jubilee Street,” we knew we were in for something special here. It put the crowd on edge, in the most positive way possible. Nick Cave had taken control of the concert hall, and was going to own us for the rest of the night.

The Bad Seeds are an extremely solid band. Most of the six members would play multiple instruments, and they were incredibly tight for the entire show. Many of their songs are fairly simple, with each taking on a simple part, but together, they are very impressive. Timing, and the often hectic changes between soft and delicate to sonic and menacing always went perfectly, creating the exact mood and tone that they had intended when the song was written. They were able to fill the venue with powerful ambiance when needed, and raw power when required. They were fantastic, and even though they get overshadowed by their frontman, they are a worthy band in their own right.

But let’s be honest: it is Cave himself that people go to see. He commands the audience in such a way that we may be reminiscent of what someone like Jim Morrison could do in the height of his career. He can stand and sway on the stage, singing about darkness and murder, and have the rapt attention of every single person in the theater. In a place like the Jubilee, it is possible to hear what someone on the lower level says, because the acoustics are that good. But during the quiet moments, there was nobody speaking. Everyone was listening to Cave, with rapt, cult-like attention. It was incredible. People were so into the show, that there was significantly less cellphone use than you would normally see at a concert. People were enjoying the show, the strange journey that our leader was taking us on. Cave is a psychotic preacher at times, but as he postulates about passion, death, murder, and lust, we cannot help but listen.

Dressed in a black suit, Cave truly connected with the audience. Twice during the show he wandered well into the audience to sing an entire song. It had people turned in all directions, craning themselves to see the frontman. He controls his voice incredibly well, going from a whisper to a deep baritone scream often, and well. He has mastered his craft, having been doing it since the 70’s (not all with the Bad Seeds, but he’s been going for a long time).

Personal highlights for me included “The Weeping Song,” which comes across with the intense, southern gothic sound that Cave is probably most known for. It was an incredible live song, adding to the greatness of the recorded version. Also, “The Ship Song,” and to close the show (prior to the encore), “Push the Sky Away,” which filled the hall with a haunting ambiance, while Cave controlled us once again, making us feel that there was something important happening. It was an incredible tune, one that could send shivers up your spine.

In the encore, it was all hits. I was happy that they played “Deanna,” as well as one of my favorite tunes, “Do You Love Me?”, which also came across incredibly well live. They ended the whole thing with “The Lyre of Orpheus,” allowing Cave to have a call and answer with the audience. It was phenomenal. There is no other way to put it.

Seeing this concert was one of the greatest I have ever been to. I love the smaller venues like this, and it makes you understand how annoying it can be to watch arena rock. There are no issues with the regular trappings of arena rock, like poor sound, poor sight lines, drunken throngs of people, terrible parking, etc. This is how concerts are meant to be seen.

If you are on the fence about going to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, don’t be. Just go. It doesn’t matter if you know one song, or the words to every single one, you will be in for a treat. An incredible band, led by an incredible singer, will make for a stunning show. I may not have been the hugest fan going into the show, but I was expecting a good performance. And I got more than I bargained for. It was masterful, epic, and something that will be remembered for a long time.

This is rock and roll. It is having darkness mixed with tenderness, all guided by the somewhat vampiristic Cave.

See them. You will absolutely not regret it.

Show info:

Opener: starts at 8, plays for about 30 mins

Nick Cave: starts at approximately 8:30-8:45. Ended at 11:00. (2.5 hour set)

Set List:

1. We No Who U R, 2. Jubilee Street, 3. Tupelo, 4. Red Right Hand, 5. Mermaids, 6. The Weeping Song, 7. From Her to Eternity, 8. West Country Girl, 9. The Ship Song, 10. Into My Arms, 11. Higgs Boson Blues, 12. The Mercy Seat, 13. Stagger Lee, 14. Push the Sky Away. Encore: 15. Watching Alice, 16. Deanna, 17. Do You Love Me?, 18. We Real Cool, 19. The Lyre of Orpheus

Tickets: $40 for second balcony. Good view, great sound.

Advertisements

The Kings of Summer (Film Review)

The Kings of Summer (Film Review)

When you are a teenager, all you want to do is to grow up. To be an adult, to prove your worth to yourself, those closest to you, and to the world.

As a teenage boy, it is paramount that at some point, you are able to prove that you are a man, that you are able to stand on your own two feet and demonstrate to the world that you can take whatever it throws at you.

While growing tired of his bitter father, and abnormal family life, two friends decide that they are going to build a house in the woods, to escape the world that has been so disappointing for them to that point. They want to prove that they are men, that they can do the things in the world that they will soon be expected to do.

The Kings of Summer is very much a traditional coming-of-age story, and one that is fun and adventurous, as it should be. Our protagonists follow through with their wild dream, causing their families great turmoil over their disappearances. But they are out to prove that they can live on their own, without the need of their overbearing parents, or the regular trappings of city life. It is a simple desire, and the journey they undertake is interesting.

kings of summer(1)The film is beautifully shot, with great scenery throughout. I liked the script in that it never pushed things too far, and never veered into the unrealistic. They don’t build an incredible palace in the woods, they don’t fall into a Lord of the Flies type of battle for supremacy. They are just boys, enjoying their simple time away from the world. Sure, they have their issues, such as trying to hunt and feed themselves, and despite their desire to get away from it all, it is never truly possible. As with any, or most, teenage boys, girls are an issue, as are questions of popularity and the sens of needing to belong. All of these things are explored in The Kings of Summer, and it is enjoyable seeing it unfold.

We cheer for our protagonists, hoping that they will be able to make everything work, that they can prove their worth, that they can show themselves to be successful and important in their own minds. That they are albe to create something that they deem important, and that they don’t need the outside world that doesn’t really want them in the first place.

I think this film could be compared to a light version of Into the Wild, though not nearly as intense. It is meant to be light-hearted, and it is. And this was a strength of the story, in that we get the feeling that nothing truly bad could happen to our characters, and that they will somehow be able to work things out for themselves, and that in the end, they will be okay.

There is some really good acting throughout the film, from the major characters to the smaller ones. Standout performances come from Nick Offerman, as the bitter father, and Allison Brie, as the sister. Smaller roles, but integral ones to the development of the leads.

Overall, a very solid film here. Not going to change any lives, but it will show that there are types of characters out there who are willing to push the boundaries to ensure that they can change their own. Well worth a watch.

Why Not Nashville?

Why Not Nashville?

Jason Spezza has demanded a trade from the Ottawa Senators, and with his limited no-trade clause, he was able to submit a list of 10 teams that he would not be willing to be traded to.

Most of the teams on the list make sense. He no longer wants to play under the microscope of a Canadian market, so there are six teams that make up the list. And that is fair. Not just because he wants out of Canada, but because all of the Canadian teams are in pretty terrible shape on the ice, and he would not be able to challenge for a championship with any of them in the foreseeable future.

spezzaThe one team that I was surprised to see on his list was the Nashville Predators. With the stories coming out that there was a deal in place to send him there, and that he refused to waive his no-trade to go there, Spezza is being made out to be the bad guy in the situation, handcuffing his GM by not allowing him to get the best deal out there for the Sens. Well, that is neither here nor there, as Spezza is just exercising the rights afforded to him in the contract that his GM created for him. If he doesn’t want to go somewhere, that’s fine. Then it is up to the GM to not trade him to the very place he said he wouldn’t go, and then try to throw him under the bus to the media.

But I wonder why he wouldn’t want to go to Nashville? Sure, the team has always struggled offensively, which is exactly why they would want to trade for the proven scoring center. But they have a strong foundation down there, with some good young players and a tremendous defensive corps, starting in net with Pekka Rinne and on D with Shea Weber and Seth Jones. With some punch on the offensive side, they are a team that is not far off from competing. And they showed that they are willing to make some changes in order to get better, as demonstrated by their acquisition of James Neal from the Penguins on Friday.

Spezza could have been a star in Nashville, the leader of the offense. But, perhaps, this is not what he wants. He has been in the spotlight for so long in Ottawa, I could see him wanting to end up on a team where he isn’t “the man.” Where he can be a secondary piece, on the second line, and not have to deal with the constant scrutiny that has followed him for his whole career.

Nashville seems like a fun place to play, to be honest. For being a non-traditional hockey market, they have a ferocious fan base, a great building, and from everything I have heard, it is a really fun place to live. Nashville has a great nightlife, and a great music scene, and could definitely appeal to the young millionaire as a place to settle for a few years. I don’t think that Spezza didn’t want to go there because of the city, but because of the situation.

Now, we are forced to wonder who is left for him to be traded to? The only team that really makes sense is the St. Louis Blues, who were rumoured to be involved in trade talks about him from the moment he said he wanted a trade. What other team could afford him, have the pieces to trade for him, and offer him the protection of better talent and a diminished on-ice role? If he wasn’t so expensive, I could see Chicago being involved. Maybe even Minnesota. What about the Red Wings or the Rangers?

The options are definitely limited for him now, which brings me back to the question of why he wouldn’t want to go to Nashville. If anything, it could have helped him out, because there may not be anywhere else to go.

Rock of Ages (Film Review)

Rock of Ages (Film Review)

Rock of Ages brings the Broadway hit to the big screen, and they do it in the best possible way: dripping with cheese.

I never saw the stage version of this, but now that I have seen the film, I think that I would like to. The story here is simple enough, a young girl heading out to Hollywood with stars in her eyes, where she meets up with her love interest and begins working at the biggest rock bar on the Strip. Here she is able to meet the whole cast of characters, including the burning-out rock star Stacee Jaxx, the biggest thing in music. It is a love story, and a story about fame, as one would expect. There is nothing new here, or particularly original. In fact, the whole film is very predictable and the plot is pretty lame.

But I loved it.

The first thing to discuss in a musical is, of course, the music. It is fantastic. Loaded with rock hits from the 1980’s, Rock of Ages brings new life to the songs, pumping them up, and often, creating them into new, likable, mashups. Probably due to the massive success of Glee, the mashup is an enjoyable new way to listen to old favorites. There is something pretty cool about hearing opposing sides of the street wailing on a version of “We Built This City” crammed together with “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” It’s fun. And that is all that this film tries to be. Fun. If the audience has a good time, then they have really done their job. They are not trying to recreate the musical genre, or provide us with an in-depth look at the perils of the ever-changing music industry. They just want us to laugh a little, and sit back and enjoy the music.

rock3The acting here, while not terribly good, is still fun. The headliner is the beautiful Julianne Hough, who has demonstrated before that she is not the greatest actress, but she makes some movies that are just plain entertaining (I’m looking at you, Footloose). She is always nice to look at, and has a pretty solid voice. She does a reasonably convincing job of portraying the hayseed from Oklahoma that has big dreams when she heads out West. Other stars have smaller roles, such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Alec Baldwin, and Russel Brand. They all get the chance to belt out some hits, as well. Some are great, some are misses, but overall, it seems like they had a good time putting this onto film. And that comes across to the audience, which makes the whole thing that much more lovable. They are having a good time, and so are we.

rock2A highlight has to be Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx. His performance is creepily convincing, as his rock god status is spiraling out of control at the bottom of a bottle, mixed in with groupies, as he is nearing the start of his solo career. Cruise is fun in this role, emulating Jim Morrison and Axl Rose in his stage performances and general demeanor. Love him or hate him, he works in this movie, and by the end, you have a tough time hating Jaxx, even though we probably should.

A little bit Coyote Ugly, a little bit Showgirls, a bit of the “Welcome to the Jungle” music video all mixed together gives us what Rock of Ages is: a fun musical with great tunes. Nothing too complex, nothing too life-changing. Kind of like the 80’s: just a good time.

Wanderlust (Film Review)

Wanderlust (Film Review)

There are so many good ideas presented in the film Wanderlust, but unfortunately, not many of them come to fruition.

Starting off with a good cast, Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston make a pretty decent team, they never seem to really get off the ground. Both actors, especially Rudd, have good comedic timing and talent, but it isn’t used as often as it could be here. Rudd definitely gets the best parts, especially as he prepares to engage in a newly opened relationship. This gives him the chance to do what he does best, which is basically just rant off a bunch of lines in increasing silliness and grossness. Which is hilarious. But there isn’t enough of those kind of laughs in this film.

wanderThe story itself has some potential as well. A New York couple, fresh off buying their first studio apartment, come across hard times with the loss of a job and a failed documentary. They are forced to sell quickly and head to Atlanta to stay with Rudd’s brother.

On their way, they stop at a hippy commune named Elysium. Here, they discover things about themselves that they had never known before. They found freedom, and a life away from the city that they had never understood. With no pressure and the ability to do anything, it of course falls apart.

Where Wanderlust fails is that they could be making a large commentary on the rat race that so many of us engage in, and the need that we have to truly be free of the shackles of jobs and relationships. But they don’t really say that. It is very superficial in that sense. There is more to be said here, and it could have been done with more depth, intelligence, and passion. The film lacks all of these things, which is too bad.

The hippies at the commune are nothing special, either. The characters aren’t as eclectic as they could have been, and there were more missed opportunities for laughs with them.

Very much like many of the characters in the film, it all felt a little bit too hollow. Fairly disappointing, to be honest. I had expected so much more from this movie, especially since it was more of an independent feature, giving it more credibility.

I’d keep scrolling through Netflix, and skip Wanderlust.

Bates Motel: Season 1 (TV Review)

Bates Motel: Season 1 (TV Review)

Everybody knows how this will all end…

But before Marion Crane comes to check in at the Bates Motel and has the shower that nobody will ever forget, there is an entire story to tell about the Bates family.

Bates Motel lets us into the lives of Norma and Norman Bates, the most unusual mother-son combo we may ever know from film. And the show lets us see how truly dysfunctional and messed up they really are. From Psycho, we know the hold that Norma had over her son, and the irreparable damage that she caused her son, leading him to a strange life of murder. Here, we get to see how that is developed, and how Norman came to be the way he is.

And it is done extremely well. The acting in this show is very strong, led by Vera Farmiga playing Norma. She is unbalanced, and can convincingly switch for caring to psychotic and overbearing in the course of a few well-written lines. She is a loving mother, but too loving, and too concerned with keeping her son close to her. There are many scenes throughout Bates Motel where we can tell ourselves, “Oh, yeah, that’ll turn him into a killer.” Farmiga is convincing, but manages to maintain Norma as being a sympathetic character for the most part, especially in the first half of the first season. Having recently lost her husband (and we found out how he dies), we see her buy an old motel where she and her son can move, in order to start their lives over again.

It doesn’t take long before we see how ferocious she can be, and how determined she is to keep her family together, safe, and out of trouble. This will cause her to infringe on the life of her son in many ways, including the classic mother guilt trip, which she enacts to perfection.

batesNorman, her second son (her first son appears as well, who is Norman’s half brother from another father), is the one who suffers the majority of the consequences of her actions. When Norma gets angry, it is Norman that feels the guilt, and the idea that he will let her down, or disappoint her, is something that drives a large number of his actions. Norman is also acted brilliantly, by Freddie Highmore, who I mostly remembered from Finding Neverland. He plays the role with the perfect amount of creepiness, blended with awkward teenage behaviors. You cannot help but feel sad for Norman, because we are witnessing what he has to live with on a daily basis, and everybody knows that at some point in his life, he will end up stabbing Marion Crane in the shower, before returning to his creepy mansion to check on his dead mother in a rocking chair.

How does a person become so dysfunctional is what is primarily explored in the series, and it does well. There is so many nods to the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie, and it feels as though the characters are true to what he may have envisioned as their back story. Despite being set in modern times, the show plays like it has the same end goal in mind, and it would not be a surprise to have the series eventually wrap up with the moment that Marion Crane checks into the motel.

Highmore convinces us that the damage heaped upon him in childhood is enough to destroy his future life, and turn him into something evil. But there is more to Norman that just simply being the ultimate mamma’s boy. He has issues on his own, that go beyond social awkwardness, and a desire to please his mother. He struggles with his anger, and has rage-induced blackouts, which will obviously play a paramount role in how this series plays out.

There is plenty of intrigue in the show as well, maintaining a Hitchcockian level of suspense through each episode. There are other storylines at play here as well. The Bates family coming to a new town, trying to get the motel up and running, a plot of human trafficking, Dylan gaining employment with a drug ring, Norman falling for Bradley, the most popular girl in school, and his friendship with Emma, the daughter of a taxidermist, who is suffering from cystic fibrosis.

There is much to love about Bates Motel. It is well thought out, interesting, a little bit creepy, and always suspenseful. Backed up by such strong acting and stories, this is definitely a show that warrants a watch, as well as waiting for the second season to be released on to Netflix as well. I will anticipate the next binge viewing session that this show deserves.

Eating Edmonton: Craft Beer Market

Eating Edmonton: Craft Beer Market

It’s hard not to love all of the places opening up in Edmonton that specialize in good food and good beer. Because, food and beer are some of my favorite things in the world.

It took me a lot longer to get out to Craft than I would have expected, especially with its convenient downtown location, right across the street from the Sherlock Holmes pub. Well, it is convenient if you actually manage to get parking downtown without having to pay and arm and a leg for it. But this is less of a problem in the evening, once the workday crowd has mostly dispersed. Still, don’t expect to get one of the very few spots right across from Craft. Plan to walk a few blocks.

craft2First off, the space that Craft has is incredible. It is very large, two floors, and has recently opened their rooftop patio for the summer months. The space is very open, spacious, and tastefully decorated. It has the feeling of a beer hall, but classier, not unlike other establishments of this ilk.

The staff are pretty quick, friendly, and attentive, and you are greeted warmly upon entering the building. There are various table sizes, which is a nice option depending on the size of your group, with tables and booths aplenty.

One of the most impressive things about the place is the kegs of beer everywhere. If you accidentally wander down the wrong staircase trying to find the washroom, as I did, you will get to the basement level that includes a room with hundreds upon hundreds of kegs of beer in it. Momentarily, I believed it to be heaven. You can also see the beer on the main and upper floor, as it is contained in glass rooms, similar to how it is in Beer Revolution in Oliver Square.

The food at Craft is good. As is expected now, they have a full and interesting menu of what I call Pub Grub+. Typical fare for this kind of place, but it is really tasty, and not simply sloppy chicken wings. It actually took our group a while to decide on what to eat, because there was definitely more than one enticing option. Pretty much every appetizer sounded delicious. But we had to restrain ourselves.

As for the beer selection, well, it is probably second-to-none in Edmonton. I believe there are over 100 beers on tap, and they are changed regularly. This is awesome. It can be difficult to navigate the beer menu, simply because there are just so many to choose from, and it can become quite overwhelming, if you don’t really know what you want. The servers are very knowledgeable about what they serve, so don’t hesitate to ask about a certain beer, or describe what you are looking for. They will be able to help you out with that, which is always nice.

Because of its food and drink, Craft would seem like a place that could become a home away from home for me. But for one thing: the prices.

I get it. Craft beer is all the rage. Pub Grub+ food is all the rage. And you can expect to pay for quality. I don’t mind paying for quality.

But Craft Beer Market has priced itself out for me. This cannot be a place where my friends and I hang out for an evening and sample different beers. I would go broke, especially when the majority of beers at Craft are over $9.

$9!!

While the food prices are only slightly above average in comparable pubs, it is the drinks that will absolutely destroy your bank account. This makes Craft a perfect place to come after work for a meal and a beer, but little more than that. Sadly, I am not a one beer type of person, and the price just adds up far too quickly for me. It would be great to be able to spend some time there, and sample a lot of the different beers that they have to offer, since it is such an amazing selection, but I don’t feel like selling my car just yet. I feel that the high prices are actually a detriment to the sampling of new beers, simply because I am nervous about spending $9.25 on something I have never tried before. If it isn’t very good, then that is a large waste of money, when I could have just been smarter, and gone for the $8.25 Sapporo that I know is good.

Me complaining about it won’t change the prices, and from what I’ve heard, Craft has been very successful since its opening in Edmonton, which is great. It continues to be nice to see downtown being revitalized with new places all the time, creating a place that is good for the older crowd that has mostly tired of Whyte Ave.

Craft is great, if you have the money.