Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds At The Fonda Theatre
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By Jamie Harvey
The crowd that trickled into the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 21 was dressed up and giddy as can be for the brooding alternative rock sect. Everyone knew the evening would be special as Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds performed the only U.S. date of four total worldwide shows backed by strings and a choir.
Before the show began, we watched a short film about the making of their new album, Push The Sky Away. An intimate look at the creation of the sounds within the album, it was the perfect appetizer to what was a two-course fine-dining music experience.
The first set featured the new album played in its entirety. As the curtain lifted and the stage was revealed, you could see that every inch of it was packed with something that would contribute to the sound this night: electric keys, a piano, multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis' violin and multiple bows, a flute, several guitars, a small strings section, the Silverlake Conservatory of Music children's choir … and the list went on.
Push The Sky Away is almost bare in comparison to Cave's other work, most of which centers around his lyrics. This album especially highlights Cave's lyrical talent. It is more melancholy than angry, more longing than desirous. The standout of this set was "Jubilee Street," however, "We Real Cool" and "Higgs Boson Blues" (which Cave admittedly fumbled the lyrics on), both of which contained name-drops such as Wikipedia, "Hannah Montana" and Miley Cyrus, were entertaining to hear (and probably a joy for the children's choir amidst the rest of the lyrics).
Adding even more fuel to his performance, Cave would often jump to a series of crates at the barricade, crooning above the crowd.
The dynamic shifted as the second set began, a highlights reel of the Bad Seeds' more than two decades-old catalog. "From Her To Eternity" kicked off the set as the energy became more dynamic with Ellis moving to the back to direct the string section. "The Ship Song," complemented by the children's shrill voices in the background, was heart-wrenching. There are many songs titled "Jack The Ripper," but the Bad Seeds' version is the best, and the band proved it as they presented their furious tale.
As if the show itself wasn't enough, at one point I turned around and stared into the glassy blue eyes of Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, singing and moving along to all the songs. Watching Cave and Ellis interact like a duo of mad scientists is a sight to see, particularly on "Red Right Hand" and the closer, "Stagger Lee."
I can't think of a better way to end the show than with "Stagger Lee," with its rhythmic music, profane lyrics and the frenetic mannerisms of the man in the black suit, Nick Cave.
Push The Sky Away set:
"We No Who U R"
"Wide Lovely Eyes"
"We Real Cool"
"Finishing Jubilee Street"
"Higgs Boson Blues"
"Push The Sky Away"
"From Her To Eternity"
"The Ship Song"
"Jack The Ripper"
"Red Right Hand"
"The Mercy Seat"
To catch Nick Cave in a city near you, click here.
(Jamie Harvey lives in Los Angeles and is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She has attended and written about more than 500 shows since 2007. You can follow her musical adventures at www.hardrockchick.com.)