Tickets for this show went very fast. The Paramount website says the band requested ticketless sales and a four-seat limit. Fans only. No re-entry. No scalpers. Ticket buyers had to show up in person with ID to claim their tickets. The Paramount staff was very good at getting people through the ticket pick-up lines that were organized alphabetically, so it didn’t take long to get into the venue. (There were paper tickets, but fans didn’t get them until right before they were scanned at the door.)
Sharon Van Etten came on stage at 8:00 p.m. and played a short set accompanied by only her percussionist. She played guitar and sang around six songs, and her voice sounded magnificent. I really like the way she sounds on her album Tramp, but last night she sounded better than she does on her album. Maybe it’s the size of the venue and the charge she got from such an appreciative and respectful audience that made her voice so strong and clear. I hope her producer can capture it on her next album. I wish I had written down the names of the songs she played, but I didn’t, so no setlist. The last song she sang was a new one that she said her boyfriend said sounded like she was ripping off Nick Cave. I thought it was her best song.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds took the stage at 9:01 p.m, and Sharon Van Etten joined them as a backup singer. That’s her second from the left.
About these photos: I took all but one of them with a Sony Cybershot using a 10X zoom. The camera has a hard time auto-focusing because of the colored lights, and Nick moves around a lot, so yes they are a little blurry. Best I could do though. Megan Seling posted some much clearer photos by Beth Crook on The Stranger’s “Line Out” blog.
Nick opened the show with three tracks off the new album, Push the Sky Away. First was “We No Who U R”, a tranquil song with sparse instrumentation. Next was “Jubilee Street” that starts out quiet and gradually builds into a rumbling, almost blues number accented by the very raw and loud guitar playing of Warren Ellis.
“Wide Lovely Eyes” is a happier, more upbeat song from the album, and it was followed by the epic “Higgs Boson Blues” that name drops Robert Johnson and the Devil, alludes to Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel, places Hannah Montana in the African Savannah, and ends with Miley Cyrus floating in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake.
During the song Nick moved all around the stage whipping his microphone chord in and out of his way, and Warren Ellis played some wicked loud riffs on electric guitar. Nick did stop near center stage and kneeled down in front of the audience to grab hold of a woman’s hand and hold it to his chest as he sang “Can you feel my heart beat? Can you feel my heart beat?” No doubt she did. So did the rest of us in the form of Martin Casey’s powerful bass playing.
For the cacophonous part of the show Nick drew from his catalogue of classic Bad Seeds songs starting with “From Her to Eternity”, followed by “Red Right Hand” featuring Warren Ellis going nuts on both violin and guitar, then “Deanna” and a short non-introduction to “Jack the Ripper”. (He started to say something but stopped. He’s just not into introductions.)
Following the sonic maelstrom that is The Bad Seeds, Nick sat down at the piano and took off his suit jacket. The crowd cheered the jacketless Mr. Cave, and he responded with “Really? Is that all it takes?” Nick played piano and sang three songs, “Love Letter”, “People Ain’t No Good”, and “No More Shall We Part”.
He eased back into full-band mode again with “The Weeping Song” followed by “The Mercy Seat” delivered to us as a howl from Hell.
The band started into a slow blues groove, and Nick strutted around the stage as he got into character to tell his version of the story of a killer named “Stag” Lee Sheldon, better known to Nick fans as the bad motherfucker called “Stagger Lee”. The band exploded in shrieks of noise to highlight the end of each verse. Before the final verse of the recorded version of the song, Nick knelt down and wrapped his free arm around a fan at the edge of the stage and pulled him in tight against his body as he sang, ”
Just then Billy Dilly rolls in and he says, “You must be That bad motherfucker called Stagger Lee.”
“Yeah, I’m Stagger Lee, and you better get down on your knees and suck my dick because if you don’t, you’re gonna be dead,”
Said Stagger Lee
Billy dropped down and slobbered on his head and Stag filled him full of lead
Followed by more high-decibel “gun shots” and electric screams from the band.
But that wasn’t the end of the song. The band quieted down and Nick began a new verse:
In come the devil said “I’ve come to take you down Mr. Stagger Lee. I’ve come to take you down Mr. Stagger Lee”.
Well those were the last words that the Devil said, ’cause Stag put four holes in the motherfuckers head.”
That’s right, Stagger Lee is badder than the Devil.
And what better place to end a set? They left the stage and came back after a few minutes for the two-song encore. Nick’s ode to Elvis, “Tupelo” was first, and the show ended with the title track from Push the Sky Away.
Here’s the setlist:
We No Who U R
Wide lovely Eyes
Higgs Boson Blues
From Her to Eternity
Red Right Hand
Jack the Ripper
People Ain’t No Good
No More Shall We Part
The Weeping Song
The Mercy Seat
Push the Sky Away
And when I find some more reviews I’ll link to them here.
Review for City Arts by Rachel Shimp.
Bobby Switchblade over at Will the Fire described the sound quite well.
It sounded like so much electricity was being channeled through the monitors that it could only process it by funneling it all into one disorienting din that reminded me of films that depict the heavy ringing in your ears that can follow exposure to a bomb blast or gun shot. Despite the array of instruments being played on stage, the sound they created became one giant gong amplifying the song’s sense of simultaneous implosion, explosion and disintegration.
Seattle Post Intelligencer review.
Back Beat Seattle review and lots of photos by Dagmar.
YouTube videos of the concert: Deanna, Love Letter, Tupelo, Stagger Lee