Some people say it’s just rock and roll oh but it gets you right down to your soul

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Mitsubishi Electric Hall, Düsseldorf; October 12th, 2017

Nick Cave had somehow never made an appearance on my list of people to see live until I read a review of his movie ‘One more time with feeling’. Mind you, I still have not seen it, despite owning the DVD, but somehow that got me interested. I hesitated too long though and tickets for the Düsseldorf concert were already sold out by the time I decided to go. Luckily I managed to get one short notice at face value (hooray for ebay!). So on a Thursday night I found myself in third row at the former Philipshalle with no idea what to expect. And honestly, despite only hearing positive reviews, I would have never believed I’d get my mind blown by Nick Cave, but that is exactly what happened. “WOW!” does not even begin to describe it!

From the very first note the Bad Seeds played the energy in the room was palpable and the moment Nick Cave walked on stage he already held the audience in the palm of his hand. Every move, every sound he made was mesmerizing. Rarely have I seen such charisma paired with such, for lack of a better word, understatement. Nick Cave just is. He walks out, he is charming, but he is not trying too hard. He does whatever comes to mind, dances about, jumps towards the audience, literally leans into them, sings, screams, talks to us, seems touchable and untouchsble at the same time. I find it very hard to describe what was going on inside my head, I am not even sure I was thinking at all, but I know I was watching in awe, hardly able to take my eyes off him, reaching out when he came close, but almost afraid to touch. It was an out of this world experience.

During the concert I had too much fun to cry, but so many emotions built up that the tears came on the way home. Not all of the music was sad or melancholic, some was even rather wild. Despite not recognizing any of the songs or not fully understanding the lyrics, I felt them in my body and mind, like waves going through me. Goosebumps all over and my heart beating in rhythm with the music.

The band was bloody amazing too, especially the violinist and all of them played flawlessly. Yet I hardly noticed them most of the time, they merely provided the backdrop for the force of nature that Nick Cave is. Lights were used sparsely, but effectivly, just highlighting whoever needed to be highlighted and the projections on the big screen in the back created just the right atmosphere. I especially liked that they mostely used blue and green lights.

For the whole length of the stage there was a lower part in front, that I had thought Nick would walk on. So far, so usual. What was different though was a similar “walkway” accross from it and attached to the top of the barrier behind which we stood. I would guess it was 30 – 40 cm wide and as I soon learned only a big step or a jump away from the stage. Nick started the concert sitting on a stool, but got up halfway through the song, took one step and was almost amongst us. He used the full length of the walkway too, getting close to everyone at the front, holding out his hands for suppport, to touch or to conduct us. We gladly followed and obliged whenever asked to sing.

He leaned out a few times right were I stood, making some fans very happy by taking their hands. He looked at me a few times too and once I dared to make contact and touch his hand. Yes, he is of flesh and blood! One time he stood in front of two girls to my right for a while and one of them kept touching his legs. When the song was over he asked who molested him and joked “is this a safe space?”, then moved away a bit, but he came back later.

Somewhere in the middle of the set, time and space long forgotten they played two beautifully touching piano pieces, ‘Into my Arms’ and ‘Girl in Amber’. They were so intense, I almost forgot to breathe. The repetition of the line “Into my arms, oh Lord” became a mantra, repeated by us. All in all there was not that much singing along, at least not loudly, but I saw many people mouthing the lyrics. Nick picked key words sometimes and let us repeat them and once asked us to sing the chorus with him. Everything was beautiful and at times it was even funny like the moment when he incorporated Twitter and Instagram into a song or looked at somebody singing “and you got this shitty camera”. He was consantly on the move, often surprisingly quick as he jumped from the stage to the walkpath and back, getting into people’s faces. It was impossible not to be drawn in by his presence, yet he did all of it sort of calmly. A woman I talked to after the show described his demeanor as “unaufgeregt”. That word translates to unexcited, but that does not really transport the meaning. It fits though.

I was deeply impressed, found myself swaying with the music not knowing or caring where or when I was. The people around me where a mixture of first timers and long time fans and all of us were equally blow away by the performance. By the looks of it I’d say this was fan heaven. The was a rather excited young woman in front of me whom I thought might faint when he grabbed her hand at one point – the look on her face was pure joy mixed with disbelief – beautiful! To be fair, the first man whose hand Nick grabbed for support, had the identical look on his face. I had not counted on the concert being so emotional and I loved every minute of it. When the main set ended I had no idea how much time had passed, checked my watch and realized two hours were gone.

It was the first song of the encore I think when Nick went off the stage somewhere to my left and deeply into the audience, getting even closer than he already had, singing amongst the crowd. Everyone who was not close enough could watch him on the big screen. He certainly is not afaraid to touch and get close. All of that was unexpected to me since he comes across somewhat distant in pictures. I loved being wrong about this. Rumor had it he would pull people on stage for ‘Stagger Lee’ and the moment the song started the fans were ready. He did not even have to ask them to come up, they just flooded the stage and stood behind him. I took a step back, watching from below. He sang with them, he danced with them, he made them sit down and get up again, took water from one and gave his mic to another. The girl who held the microphone looked at him as if he was a god, waiting for the right moment to hand it back. I believe that was pretty much how my gig face looks like too. The all stayed up ther until the very end when he thanked us and the band, said goodbye and disappeared behind them. Wow, just wow! Still somewhat dazed, I made my way home, feeling like I was floating a above ground, happy I’d decided to go.

Setlist

Anthrocene
Jesus Alone
Magneto
Higgs Boson Blues
From Her to Eternity
Tupelo
Jubilee Street
The Ship Song
Into My Arms
Girl in Amber
I Need You
Red Right Hand
The Mercy Seat
Distant Sky
Skeleton Tree

Encore
The Weeping Song
Stagger Lee
Push the Sky Away

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No bravery in the land of the free

Ragnar Ólafsson – The Brunswick, Brighton; October 4th, 2017

The Brighton concert was the first one to be announced on the little UK tour and the one I only decided to add last minute. London fit my schedule much better because it was on a public holiday and since there were no morning flights back to Germany, I decided one had to be enough. Until I returned from Reykjavik that is. I went back and forth between thinking that I really should be at the office and really wanted to go to Brighton. Finally, the Friday before the gig I decided to go, change my flights booked a hotel and felt much happier after. 😀 Needless to say it was totally worth it, proving once again that a chance of spending the evening with good music and good people should never be missed.

Booking late meant expensive trains so I took a bus to Brighton, arrived in the early afternoon and walk along the beach to my bed & breakfast. It was beautiful weather and so warm that I was tempted to go for a swim in the sea. I didn’t, but the water sure looked appealing. What I saw of the city was lovely and contrary to my expectations totally different from Whitby where I had been at about the same time last year. The ocean looked liked it does in California with shade of turquoise and blue. After a long walk I had a good Thai dinner and made my way to The Brunswick for the concert.

They actually had a separate window for the concert and there were posters too. I had to wait a bit before they let us in and I could say hello to the guys. Ragnar told me that Tom could not make it this time, but Amy Webber, today’s duet partner would be his support act. I was curious to hear her and settled down at a table at the front. On the stereo they were playing a cover version of Springsteen’s ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ which made me smile, because Bruce seemed to follow me on this trip. 🙂

The start time was more Icelandic than British, but eventually Amy was on stage with a friend of hers supporting her on guitar. They started with two cover songs and I noticed that her voice was amazing. She sounded beautiful. 🙂 Next she played some of her own songs and towards the end of her set she called her friend Shannon to the stage to play and sing with her, once again playing cover songs and one of Shannon’s own. It was mostly pop tunes with a bit of country thrown in. I quite liked it. Both women had lovely voices. Pretty much everyone in the audience seemed to know them and clearly, most had come to see Amy, because as soon as she was done several people got up and left. Their loss.

It didn’t take all that long until Ragnar and Kjartan were on stage. They started with ‘SSDD’ and I loved it. Kjartan’s slide guitar is just awesome. It made me smile because this was the song that had never really worked for me before and now, since the London gig, it finally won me over. Only a matter of time. 🙂 Ragnar introduced them briefly and told us how the album came about, before he played ‘Wine’, once again without the mic. His description of recording the song at Toppstöðin with the wind blowing and a creaking chair really set the atmosphere for the song.

He introduced ‘A Prayer’ saying it is like a mantra of thoughts that go round and round im your head without resolution. It certainly is one of those songs I can listen to over and over again. It speaks to me on many levels. <3 About ‘Relations’ he noted that he still has no clue what the song is about and suggested we tell him. I have ideas, but I am sure they say a lot more about me than about what the song really means. 😉 Anyway, it has grown on me and I liked the piano version a lot.

After a great version of ‘Urges’ he called Amy on stage to sing with him, telling us they had prepared three songs. The first one was ‘Dozen’ and worked beautifully. Then she stayed for ‘War’ and added some great harmonies for it. Ragnar asked us if we liked stories and when we agreed he told us that fit well because he likes talking : D, then proceeded to tell us a little more about the song.

‘Vegetate’ eased the mood a bit after all the sad songs and again, Kjartan’s slide guitar work was amazing. ‘Bravery’ was great as well. So much power. Then it was back to the piano and softer, more depressing notes with ‘Red Wine’. It waa a nice contrast to the previous songs.

Amy was back for an amazing version of ‘Petals’ and the set ended with ‘Scar’. Ragnar told us it was the last song before the encore and even though we were not many people he played ‘A Needele and a Thread’ anyway introducing it as the start of a new chapter in his story. I was happy to hear it again and loved it just as much as the first time around.

Aftet the show we went out for drinks until last call and getting kicked out of the bar ( which in the UK isn’t very late). It was a fun night and I said goodbye with many hugs as I was not going to join them for the next day’s concert. See you in Warsaw!

Setlist

SSDD
Wine
A Prayer
Relations
Urges
Dozen
War
Vegtate
Bravery
Red Wine
Petals
Scar

A Needle an a Thread

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