27 September 2008

show review: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Disclaimer: It's nearly false notice to title this post as a show review, because I don't feel like this is going to turn out like one. But here goes.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Bambi Lee Savage
Ogden Theatre
Denver, Colorado
26 September 2008

I like Nick Cave's music. Quite a lot. But still, I wouldn't call myself a super-fan. I can't recite his catalogue like I can my honest faves. But in spite of my Nick Cave ignorance, I appreciated that I was in for a treat on this September evening. Though I don't know the names of but a few of the songs, I definitely recognize that voice when I hear it. And I dig those songs. But my copy of Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds has sufficed as almost enough Nick Cave for me. That's just how it is. So super Nick Cave fans, judging from my little contact with y'all last night, unless you are a friend of mine curious what I thought of the show, you're probably just going to get annoyed at my ignorance. You are warned.

The Ogden was packed to capacity. And where I was standing, actually over capacity. It was a sweaty energetic crowd who knew these songs by heart. It was overwhelming, both from the emotion of the crowd and the heat. I thought I might faint.

Not having heard but one song off the newest release, Dig Lazarus Dig, I reckoned I wouldn't recognize many songs, but it seemed like about half to more of them are on my best-of disc.

I had heard that there was a problem with their gear making it from Seattle to Denver and that the band had to rent near to all their gear for the show. That seems like it'd have to rattle anybody, but the Bad Seeds are truly professionals. I wouldn't have known there was a problem. Except for Nick Cave's temper tantrum over some monitor problem where he apparently couldn't hear the keyboard he was playing. So he kicked it over. Tech guys scrambled and ducked glares and what not from Mr. Cave. One might surmise it was simply rock n roll dramatics, but even if this was the case, it was a fine performance. From inviting a call-and-response session of singing with the crowd to the artful arrangement of the set list, Nick Cave knows what his crowd will appreciate. And I always appreciate a good performance.

Bambi Lee Savage and her backing band for the evening, Denver's own o.g. line-up of Red Cloud West, gave an enjoyable and solid performance. You might know that I am more than a bit biased here, but I'll try to keep it objective. There were some vocal Bambi Lee and Red Cloud fans giving a few shout outs, many recognizing the Bambi Lee Savage song from the Slingblade soundtrack, and others recognizing a Red Cloud song (sung as a pretty duet between Ross Etherton and BLS,) but truth is, much of the crowd was antsy to see Nick Cave, and no opening band could really make those folks happy.

By the end of the evening, I'd decided a couple things. I was really glad to have been at the show. All the way through. It had that feeling of one that I'd be sorry I had missed if I hadn't gone (like PJ Harvey, or John Cale, or Daniel Johnston, or... well you know the type of show I mean.) And two, the energy of these die-hard Nick Cave fans, paired with the energy of the performance has spurred me to give more of the Nick Cave catalogue a closer listen. And that's a longer list of stuff to look forward to. Which is why I keep listening.

06 September 2008

The Future is Unwritten

I heard a little snippet of the new Joe Strummer documentary on Radio 1190 a couple weeks ago and upon hearing the sound of Joe Strummer’s confident and sharply honest voice I set the movie near the top of my Netflix queue. To tell the truth, lately I haven't wanted to listen to anything. The deadening of music has been creeping up on me little by little for months and it is a truly terrible loss. Always, at my lowest times, I’ve been able to turn my ear to music and feel alive again. Not so lately. I haven’t felt alive at all. And music has been no help. Even music I love and have turned to before sounds drowned by the imitations that followed them. When I listen, it sounds wrung out and tired and I have to turn it off. Nothing new fires up my senses either. It’s all deadening. With no input that can make me feel confident I am really alive, I've had no fuel for output. Writing has been out of the question.

So, last night, with only half the heart I would’ve had in the past, I sat down to watch The Future is Unwritten. And I almost remembered how it felt when I first discovered the Clash. For me it’s a very fuzzy deal pulling memory from over twenty years ago. I forget things. But I should remember this. The Clash, and especially Joe Strummer made my life feel livable at a time when I didn’t think that could ever happen. Better than that, listening to The Clash, following along lyrics written on album sleeves, I felt that some things mattered, and mattered a whole lot. I knew I existed because I could feel it and was unshakably confident in that. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever held that sort of confidence. That confidence may have been a bit borrowed from how I perceived Joe Strummer, and how I tried to imitate him at that time, (wish I still had a picture from those days) but somehow it felt more real than mere copying. It felt like recognition of something I knew was true, and how I wanted to be. I wasn’t looking up to Strummer because he was cool (he was but that was not the common sentiment at Christ the King or Tates Creek, places where I went to school at that time—I assure you quite the contrary.) Joe Strummer was cool to me because he was the real deal. Things he said resonated with a vital-ness and truthfulness that registered in every sense I had.

Now I know, obviously, I was hardly the only kid being inspired by the Clash. Books and reissued discs with copious essays in the liner notes abound. The people they've inspired could populate a large metropolis. Even people who don't care too much one way or the other about the Clash recognize "the only band that matters." But back when London Calling came out and I was playing it over and over, I was unaware of so many other listeners and was astounded when I met someone who had even heard of the Clash (this is what it was like growing up in Kentucky.) The few times I did meet a fellow Clash fan it was an instant recognition of a like-minded friend. I guess Combat Rock changed that. Not that it was the band's fault but after that record The Clash, the band began to be lost to The Clash, the product. I guess both exist, but the documentary I can't help but at least partially see as just another way to profit off a bit of history that's bound to sell. Watching it didn’t change and recharge my life, but it did stir a memory and remind me that, yes, those things can happen. Life can be shaken and you can really feel alive. Especially if you weather the downs and keep listening, and reading, and paying attention. Don’t shut off the input, and eventually something will fire.