Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Road To God Knows Where














Last Sunday, Brandon and I ventured east--again. This time, it was to see Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds at the Riviera Theater in Chicago. We took the Amtrak--a first for both of us. It was a landmark trip in that the stopping points were all cities within the Teel family history--Marceline, MO, Fort Madison, IA, and Galesburg, IL. It occurred to me that our family's association with these particular towns might be due to our having been a multi-generational railroad family. It was comforting to see Grandma Betty's old house from the tracks (here, we toasted her memory from our view from the dining car), as well as stop in the very town where the Calderone family calls home.

As for the show, it was the most energetic I've ever witnessed. My only complain is that the show, long sold-out, was obviously over-sold. There was literally no place to stand. Once there, we met up with Josh Baze and were fortunate enough to settle near the front, about ten feet from the stage. Well into the performance, I worked up the courage to snake my way through the crowd to use the restroom. My intention was to finish the show from the back, near the bar. Needless to say, from this point on, I never saw the performers again. There were simply too many people, and no clearing that was close enough. I ended up having to listen to the end of the show from the lobby. Afterward, I expressed my frustration to Brandon and Josh, and then spent the rest of the time in Chicago, regretting having moved from that spot down front. It was only upon my reading the review--and being reminded that I only missed the last two songs of the main set, and the three-song encore--that I began to feel better. Still, I was able to hear the show. I just couldn't see it.

Speaking of the show, here's a review from The Southtown Star:
Nick Cave, As Deranged Preacher, Floors The Crowd


BY ROBERT LOERZEL, Correspondent
Nick Cave repeatedly leaned into the crowd, pointing his finger and intoning his lyrics like some mad preacher Monday night at Chicago's Riviera Theatre.
Cave, an Australian-born singer-songwriter with some 20 albums, is not the only rock musician who borrows stage moves from old-style evangelists - the sort who shouted the word of God in revival tents and inspired their followers to speak in tongues. But Cave is a scary sort of preacher, and he prowled the stage with barely concealed sexual energy, his white shirt completely drenched with sweat.


It was a remarkably fiery performance by Cave, who came to Chicago with his stellar backup band, the Bad Seeds, to promote his latest record, "Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!" Cave has been making music for almost three decades, and he shows no signs of flagging energy or creativity. In fact, he's on a hot streak right now, with several top-notch albums in a row.
In addition to his music, Cave has written novels and screenplays, proving his literary talent. And many of his songs are practically bursting with witty, dense and profane words, which Cave tosses out with wild abandon. Before launching into one of the best songs on his new album, "We Call Upon the Author," Cave gave a classy nod to Chicago literature, dedicated the song to legendary local author Nelson Algren.
With two drummers, guitar, bass, keyboards and few other assorted instruments, the Bad Seeds deftly covered the gamut of Cave's musical styles Monday, from brooding Gothic rock and hard-charging punk to piano ballads and gospel. Cave played songs from throughout his career, including fan favorites from his early days such as "Red Right Hand" and "Deanna" and more recent tunes like "Get Ready for Love."
Cave's outing last year with a side project called Grinderman seems to have inspired him to play guitar more often, and he picked up the instrument several times Monday night, casually cranking out some loud chords. Cave also went back to the piano for one song, "God Is in the House," bringing the raucous concert down to a hush as he whispered the line, "If we could all hold hands and shout ... hallelujah!"
Cave closed his encore with "Stagger Lee," his updated version of the old blues song about a killer. Leaning over the crowd one more time, Cave began to clap his hands slowly to the beat, with a swaggering swing in his arms. By now, his shirt was practically translucent with perspiration. The crowd clapped along with Cave, and then he leapt back onto the stage and let loose a blood-curdling scream.
Leaving the stage, Cave let the audience know how long they'll have to wait to see him again in Chicago. "See you in a couple of years," he said. Cave's acolytes will have trouble waiting that long.
An enthusiastic female bartender at the Riviera, who'd experienced a Nick Cave concert for the first time on the previous night, proclaimed, "I've discovered God, and he wears a mustache!

The setlist:
01 Hold on to yourself
02 Dig lazarus dig
03 Tupelo
04 Weeping song
05 Red Right Hand
06 Midnight Man
07 God is in the House
08 Nobody's Baby Now
09 The mercy seat
10 Deanna
11 Moonland
12 Get ready for love
13 We call upon the author
14 Papa won't leave you Henry
15 More news from nowhere
=====
16 Jesus of the Moon
17 Hard on for love
18 Stagger Lee

Okay, one more regret. Cave closed the set with "Stagger Lee," a haunting ballad about Lee Shelton, a man who went on a killing spree in St. Louis in the late 1800's. This is quite possibly my favorite Cave song, and one that I had always hoped to witness live. I was looking forward to the sight of him prowling the front of the stage, like a hungry animal, and crooning to the crowd with fire in his eyes. Unfortunately, I'll have to settle for my DVD performance here at home. Or wait until The Bad Seeds return.

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