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.
Getting 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.
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)
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.