Live Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds / Spiritualized / Cat Power – Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles
Fri, 19 Sep 2008 11:11:38
At 50 years old, Nick Cave is showing zero signs of slowing down. Last year he took a detour from his day job as leader of the Bad Seeds to make one of the more rollicking and libidinous albums of the year (Grinderman). He and his Seeds are back this year with the excellent Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! and a few all-too-rare appearances in the States. One of the marquee dates on his 2008 tour itinerary was a stop at the Hollywood Bowl, joined on the bill by Spiritualized and Cat Power.
With a set list that tilted heavily toward old favorites from his inimitable catalog, Cave won the crowd early and never let go, barnstorming through the rockers, casting a spell during the ballads, and effectively mixing camp with creepiness on sinister tales like "Red Right Hand" and the spectacularly vulgar "Stagger Lee"–the latter putting a decisive exclamation point on the night’s proceedings.
Pacing the stage constantly, Cave looked every bit the predator, while the Bad Seeds sounded every bit like a tight band that has been playing together for years, with a few world-class musicians in the mix, including crazy-looking violinist and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis. The handful of new tracks from Lazarus fit nicely into the list, particularly the churning, tongue-twisting "We Call Upon The Author," which allowed Cave to fully play up his showstopper persona and proved to be one of the standouts of the night – along with classics like "The Mercy Seat" and a lovely rendition of "Into My Arms" featuring Cave on piano.
On a much-anticipated bill from top to bottom, Jason Pierce and Spiritualized flopped in the middle slot. Their psychedelic "space-rock" is well-suited to majestic outdoor venues, and the backup gospel singers gave some added heft. But Pierce's, um, piercing vocals continuously grated; he's much more Dave Pirner than Mark Lanegan, and, as such, just doesn't have the vocal gravitas necessary to helm such quasi-epic material. As the excessive strobe lights fired to signal the end of the set, they lit an almost perfectly still crowd, unmoved by the ruckus.
Cat Power is a famously polarizing live performer, but she walked the straight and narrow at the Bowl, playing a polished and poised set as the late-arriving crowd filed in. She still seems practically more excited to play covers than her own songs. But even though there wasn’t anything close to the variety and virtuosity on display with the headliner, her smoky voice was in fine form and provided a welcome greeting for another memorable night at the Bowl.