Nick Cave gives Vancouver a complete religious experience

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      At the Vogue Theatre on Saturday, April 6

      As even the most deliriously enraptured fan would have begrudgingly agreed, Nick Cave’s long-awaited return to Vancouver could have been better.

      The Other Man in Black could have, for example, flown Kylie Minogue halfway around the world from his native Australia to faithfully recreate “Where the Wild Roses Grow”, from 1996’s indispensable Murder Ballads. He could have tacked the baroque B-side wonder “(I'll Love You) Till the End of the World” onto an already perfect two-hour set list. And he could have enlisted the entire Sydney Symphony Orchestra to up the evening’s already considerable drama and beauty, preferably after walking across the water from Down Under to North America.

      Was all of the above too much to ask? Well, considering the alternative-music icon gave Vancouver a night that was part spine-chilling spectacle and part old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll exorcism, probably.

      Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds hadn’t played the Lower Mainland in nearly 20 years, the band’s last appearance in these parts coming as part of Lollapalooza ’94. That show had the singer famously walking off-stage midset after being hit by what was—depending on who you talk to—a shoe, a pack of cigarettes, a full six-pack of Foster’s Lager, or a dead koala bear. Saturday’s packed-to-capacity stand at the Vogue gave Vancouver a great idea what it’s been missing all these years. Can you say "fucking mesmerizing"?

      Backed by a seven-piece edition of the Bad Seeds, with multi-instrumentalist/madman Warren Ellis in the role of second in command, Cave didn’t exactly hit the stage swinging. The career-spanning set started out with “We Know Who U R” off the group’s reflective new album, Push the Sky Away.

      The magic first hit halfway through the follow-up, “Jubilee Street”, off the same record; starting out all spartan and sparse, with Ellis’s guitar wavering in and out of the mix, it suddenly exploded into an all-hands-on-deck symphonic assault. The merch table was offering up earplugs at two bucks a pop, along with the warning “It’s going to be loud.” That was no idle threat.

      What followed was Cave showing why he’s one of the greatest showmen in the history of rock ’n’ roll. Clad in a white shirt, pinstriped grey suit jacket and matching pants, he spent large swaths of the evening wild-eyed and sweat-soaked, clutching the hands of the faithful, planting kisses on the heads and lips of fans, and graciously accepting any gifts handed his way (tiny harmonicas on necklaces, woolly-mammoth headdresses, bras). The double-barrelled gutter blues of “Higgs Boson Blues” was nothing less than astonishing, this largely due to Cave grabbing the hands of audience members and pressing them to his drenched chest while he howled “Can you feel my heart beating?”

      The set selection was a dream. Had you shown up praying for “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry”, “The Mercy Seat”, “Red Right Hand”, “From Her to Eternity”, or “Deanna”, you went home feeling like Cave had delivered nothing but the hits. Those who wanted a crack band at the peak of its awe-inspiring powers got to marvel at the 12-bar blues explosion “Jack the Ripper”, which the singer concluded by proudly announcing: “That was a good version of that song.” When someone in the front row flippantly agreed, he shot back good naturedly but with: “No, it’s hard. It’s a 12-bar blues song”. Met with a laugh from the crowd, he stone-cold deadpanned: “That’s not funny.”

      The apex of the show you’ll be sorry you missed for the rest of the year? That would have been the live exorcism that was “Stagger Lee”. Cave spent the entire five-minutes-plus duration of the set-ending song shaking and swaggering like a fire-and-brimstone Old West preacher, the audience singing right along with him. Talk about profoundly moving: a stone-cold genius holding hands with the flock as those attending the service chanted, “Well, bartender, it’s plain to see/I’m that bad motherfucker called Stagger Lee.”

      It was almost enough to make you feel sorry for the AV Club concert cretin in the pit at stage left who spent the entire fucking night studiously filming every second of the concert, to the considerable outrage of everyone around him. Here’s hoping you enjoy your glorified YouTube footage, you inconsiderate shit stain, because you missed one hell of a show.

      Could Cave have been better? Well, yes. Hands up if you were hoping to hear the epic ode to stabbing, drowning, bludgeoning, and bodily dismemberment that is “The Curse of Millhaven”. But asking for something above and beyond what we were lucky to get would just be greedy. This 20-years-in-the-making night was impossibly perfect. Please, Nick Cave, come back soon.



      Yor Mutha

      Apr 7, 2013 at 2:35pm

      Great review, except for the part where you digress into picking on the person who I'm thrilled to know was there (so I guess really I have mixed feelings about this): I had to miss the concert, and seeing footage of it will give some sort of rise/consolation. Not sure why you feel you have to be so douche-baggy about the kid with the cam you called a cretin. Who knows why he was doing what he was doing. Maybe he's his own Autisic muse, or a family friend of the Cave's, or your next boss after he channels his perceived nerdi-ness into some rocking media start up that rolls into an avalanche of jobs and joy for more people than were at that concert. Or maybe he's just someone who paid full price for his ticket (did you?) and this is how he gets his on (like how some gets theirs by writing about how great it was etc). One thing is for certain; he is someone you just bullied very publicly (and there is a very hight chance that he will read, what you wrote, directed at him and about him, with hostility). For that, you are a douche. For that, I hope your future boss fires you (he's probably too kind to NOT hire you for such bullshit, I can't say the same for others I know). As for your current boss... maybe have a chat with your writers about sensitivity. Each to his own, Maestro Douche. To the 'shitstain' who sacrificed his time at the show so that others who could not be there could see it... can't wait to see the footage. Rock on.

      Mike Usinger

      Apr 7, 2013 at 3:03pm

      Yur Mutha: I have no problem with someone holding up a camera for a song. Even two. Said person--who wasn't a kid, but instead a dude with grey hair--spent the entire show holding up a camera. watching the entire show through the viewfinder. Every single person, not just me, behind him was pissed. We weren't watching Nick Cave, we were watching his camera for large chunks of the show. There is a good reason why the likes of Jack White ban cameras from their concerts. It's fucking distracting, as bad as standing there and talking for the entire concert. Douchily, yours, Mike.


      Apr 7, 2013 at 3:38pm

      One, two songs viewed through your cellphone? Not my thing, but go ahead. Every single fucking song through a two-hour set? You're an asshole. An asshole.

      I was another one of the fans who paid $100 bucks to get stuck behind that cretin. We literally cheered when the battery finally drained past its last bar. And then the motherfucker popped in a second fully-charged fucking battery!

      Nick Cave was beyond brilliant. For that dude, shitstain is as good a word as any.


      Apr 7, 2013 at 4:06pm

      I don't even like cretins filming one song. Especially when I'm behind them. Why should I have to watch your fucking phone instead of the artist I've come to see? It is beyond inconsiderate, it is rude. I might have been tempted to impulsively knock that camera out of his hands. He'd have deserved it.

      But that show was great; and yes, come back soon Nick Cave!


      Apr 7, 2013 at 5:13pm

      Gets my nomination for concert of the year. Nothing has, or will come close! Astonishing is as good a word as any to describe the entire show. Thank you Nick Cave and friends for bringing your particular brand of rock and roll to our town. You rock!

      Mina Shum

      Apr 7, 2013 at 5:21pm

      Great review of a great show. I couldn't agree with you more. Astonishing, inspiring and so viseral. I'm still floating on air.


      Apr 7, 2013 at 6:20pm

      Put your fucking camera away, you stupid fucking tourist of life! There's a whole generation of shitheads just filming every fucking thing they do. "I'm gonna film my entire life and watch it later!" - Doug Stanhope.


      Apr 7, 2013 at 9:44pm

      Best show I've seen in my life. Been waiting for this since I was 14. Sorry about your trouble with the guy recording, but does the Straight really just have to be such a whiny bitch about it? I was in the balcony loving every second of it. Best seat in the house.


      Apr 7, 2013 at 10:18pm

      Best Nick Cave show (be it Grinderman, solo, or Bad Seeds) I've seen yet, and the best overall concert I've ever been to! Amazing!

      But dude, you failed to mention that Barry Adamson was back with the Bad Seeds and playing here!!! No big deal I know - he's only an original member of the Bad Seeds, played with The Buzzcocks, formed Magazine, and Visage, worked with Angelo Badalementi, Luxuria, Howard Devoto, Anita Lane, and Depeche Mode, and you know scored Oliver Stone and David Lynch movies... No big deal though. Sorry, please continue about how much you wanted Kylie Minouge to hope on stage.

      - A 'flippant fan' of Nick's


      Apr 8, 2013 at 12:14pm

      Ed Kuepper from the Saints on guitar too!