Nick Cave – Live at Louisville Palace Theatre

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In the planning for months, my concert buddy and I ventured to his old Kentucky home to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the closest this tour offered with a free bed and breakfast.

Near the end of our preparatory brew, US World Cup viewing and grub at Bluegrass Brewing, we observed Jim James from My Morning Jacket, presumably to see the show.  Do you chat a rocker up?  Give him a familiar pat on the shoulder?  Ask for a photo?  An autograph?

Me: “Hey, enjoy your music.”  He: “Thanks.”  Well enough.

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Just down the street is the Palace Theatre, which currently seats 2,700.  Reminiscent of Atlanta’s Fox Theater in ornateness, it was an attraction unto itself.

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“Enter and view with astonishment the magnificence that the hand of man has wrought. The more you look, the more you will see.”—The Courier Journal September 1, 1928 written about the opening of the Palace Theatre.

The entry lobby, viewed in reverse below, captures one’s attention upon entering.

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From here, one can either go upstairs or directly into what I’ll call a Grand Hallway.  Unexpectedly, the theatre is off to the right, positioned at a “L” to the street. 

For the Cave fans waiting to get gear at forthcoming shows, T-shirts were $30, but only indicates the current tour cities and dates.  If you’re looking for something more provocative (humorous but unsuitable in most public places), then you’ll find that there is an option for that as well.

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Fountains, statues, coloring, coves – the Theatre has a Spanish Baroque revival motif that was restored in the 1990’s.  The Theatre is loaded with bars at every level, including a few cool hangouts.

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The ceiling... (click on any picture to expand it)... includes 139, 140, or 141 (depending on the source...) medallion faces of famous people such as Socrates, Beethoven, Dante, DaVinci and, fittingly, the theatre architect, John Eberson.

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But this is a concert review, right?

The opening act, Warpaint, opened promptly to a gradually filling theatre, but did so without sufficient volume to alert people in the hallway that they had begun.  The stage lighting effort consisted of three shades of darkness, and the sound was apparently primed for Cave and therefore left untended.  The band seemed confident enough, but they only played five songs (“Keep it Healthy,” “Love is to Die,” “Disco,” “No Way Out,” and “Elephants”).  The presentation reflected their atmospheric, light rhythmic music, but the unintelligible lyrics hampered any real appreciation for what they were doing.  Treat your opening acts better, venues.

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Without the implied comparison, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds exploded onto the stage, thankfully with all production hands on deck and immediately improved audio.   I’ve had difficulty explaining to people the type of music that Cave writes, and it’s been a frequent problem because few have heard of him... old fogies and all, I guess.

My concert buddy starts with describing Cave as a poet, which is fair enough.  I’ve reviewed his most recent CD on this blog, in which I let a snippet of lyrics say things better than I could.

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Cave is one of those rare people who can not only write with a vision, but sing to it as well.  Performed live, the polished melding of voice and music found on his recordings becomes a wild, rabid thing, played out with an affecting mania, at times a wooing siren call and, at others, a punishing viciousness (“Stagger Lee,” anyone?).

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The photo above gives a reasonable glimmer of much of the lighting of the show.  As much as Cave’s lyrics find shape in the dark places, it seems he prefers those on stage as well.  But that doesn’t mean he hides.  Into only the second song, “Jubilee Street,” Cave’s dashes across the stage front was too confining so he left the stage, going through the VIP folks down front and well into the seats, a place he would venture many times during the evening.

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This is a 56 year old, stepping on small wooden armrests as he goes deep into the crowd, pulling a microphone cord, his face and hands drawing people to him, responding to those inputs... and meanwhile proclaiming his lyrics as strongly as one might imagine Jonathon Edwards exhorting his faithful.

The song was everything one could hope for.

Meanwhile, we’ll take a TV blogger time out.  I take photos in concerts, with a camera.  Most use cell phones.   When everyone is doing it, it’s what it is.  When a few are doing it, they’re usually careful not to distract others too much from their experience.  It’s the modern era, and rather than wishing for a return to flashbulbs, I wish I had my digital camera going back to the Doobie’s in 1979. 

But!  Imagine you’re Nick Cave.  You’re sweating, you’re caught up in your performance, you’re balancing precariously on arm rests, strangers are pushing or holding onto you, you’re clamoring for audience response, and you look down and find yourself singing to...

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The back of a FREAKING IPAD staring you in the face?!!!  And how about all those people behind the offender who now can’t see?  Miserable creature(s).  Rant over.

Where were we?  Oh, yeah.  “Jubilee Street”... which would have been the perfect closer, but positioned second in the play list.   This wasn’t to be a slow, drawing in for the uninitiated.   As the professed metal head next to me said, “I guess this isn’t a sitting down show.”  Not an option.

The band was tip top, a fairly demonstrative group who knew their parts and knew their cues but who didn’t stand a chance to become an audience focal point against Cave.

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Even when Cave wasn’t in the audience, he was everywhere on the stage, crossing from one side to other, inviting his faithful closer with sweeping hand gestures, touching hands, holding a woman’s head in a suggestive spot (ahem), calling others to come forward with his hands and eyes...

Watching Cave do this is a thing.  It’s why you go to a live performance.  The changing background colorings on the curtain were elegant, as they should be.   And, Cave’s constantly changing poses and gyrations are truer to his music than Mick Jagger’s has been since, well, ever.  Somehow, the quality of what you’re hearing isn’t lost in the visual distraction.

“From Her to Eternity,” “Push the Sky Away,” and “Higgs Boson Blues,” “Red Right Hand,” and “God is in the House” were favorites.  There’s concert video out there on YouTube, but it’s not the same as being there and feeling it.

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The only introduced Bad Seed, Warren Ellis, played tremendous guitar and violin to add ferocity to the music.  My only quibble would be that when he cranked it up, the desired intensity overwhelmed the Seeds’ music.  I.e, loud noise.  Intentional?  Maybe.  But, I hope not.

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5 of 5 STARS

 

 

Setlist:

We Know Who U R
Jubilee Street
Tupelo
Red Right Hand
Mermaids
The Weeping Song
From Her to Eternity
West Country Girl
Into My Arms
God is in the House
Higgs Boson Blues
The Mercy Seat
Stagger Lee
Push the Sky Away

Encore:

The Ship Song
Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry
The Lyre of Orpheus

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