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Wednesday, December 13

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Review Tue Apr 02 2013

Review: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds @ Chicago Theatre, 4/1

Imagine a person's only knowledge of Nick Cave is his latest album with the Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away. It's a relatively strong album that's mellow yet lush and hints at Cave's exquisite talent for storytelling through compelling characters. At last night's show, this person would have been pleased to hear the album's opening track "We No Who U R" faithfully adapted, but they may have been jarred from there until the end.

Push the Sky Away is not necessarily representative of what Cave is like as a performer, especially when enraptured fans, with their hero's permission, descend to the orchestra pit, claw their way toward the stage and move temporary seating to the exit aisles. A raucous "Jubilee Street" made clear very quickly that, just because the new album is sort of mellow, the show wouldn't be. Cave bounded all over the stage with unquenched vigor. He teetered on the brink of madness, teeming with tension and rage as he stared down spectators and screamed lyrics. At the height of "Higgs Boson Blues," he pulled raised hands from the front against his chest and spewed "Can you feel my heartbeat?" repeatedly.

As the show continued, he became more dynamic with older favorites like "From Her to Eternity" and "Red Right Hand." It was a perfect example of how a crowd feeds off a performer's initial energy and the performer then absorbs that energy to elevate their game. Eventually, though, everyone needs a break. Terrific set list construction led to a necessary lull where Cave was at his weakest when reviving "Your Funeral... My Trial" after not playing it for weeks. But he followed it up with a rousing "People Ain't No Good" and then teased the crowd with the opening notes to a few songs before settling on "Love Letter." (Strangely, that's one of the few tunes he's played each time I've seen him.)

Despite Warren Ellis' manic strokes on the violin, it was Cave's show from beginning to end. The last third of the night was where he upped the intensity. "The Mercy Seat" has become a staple in his sets and did not disappoint. The fury with which he delivered its lines ("And anyway I told the truth, and I'm not afraid to die") sent chills through the crowd as he paced the stage making sure everyone in the crowd got the point before closing with "Stagger Lee." His profanity-laced version of the famous folk song is delivered with such vitriol that the hypothetical person who only knows PTSA couldn't be blamed for thinking it was Cave's original. Perhaps his biggest strength as a performer is embodying both the detestable and upstanding characters in his music. One minute he's sweet and gentle (or, as much as the music allows) while in the next he's tormented and livid. Either way, he's always convincing and it goes a long way for thousands of people every night.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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