Category Archives: Sleater-Kinney

Nick Cave Shares His ‘Stache as the 9:30

I got home from the first of mustache-on-a-wire Nick Cave’s two performances at the 9:30 Club this week to find an e-mail message from a publicist at his label saying the interview we’d booked for the following morning was canceled. (I felt only a little better when I heard he’d canceled on Post Rock‘s David Malitz, too.) The show had put me in a good mood that even that unwelcome news couldn’t spoil. In 250 words or, well, slightly more:

Nick Cave, the Australian punk-turned-literary death-rocker, is among the greatest frontmen in rock and roll. Hyperbole? Nope, check the math: You add the feral swagger of Iggy Pop to the cabaret poise of David Bowie, then factor in the shameless mustache of — that guy from Gogol Bordello, maybe? What about that mustache?

Doubtless it’s important: In his clean-shaven incarnation, Cave was writing tender piano ballads like “Love Letter” and “Into My Arms,” the only two opportunities to relax in his otherwise amphetamine-paced 18-song exorcism at the 9:30 Club Sunday night. But the Primary Source Document of the ‘Stache Era is this year’s Dig!!! Lazurus Dig!!!, one of those rare records that broadens a long-lived artist’s cult while alienating none of the true believers. But mostly, the disc justifies its six titular exclamation point by just rocking like hell — or so you thought, until you heard the seven-piece incarnation of the Bad Seeds up the ante on the songs for the stage, detonating them with sternum-rattling force.

Cave slunk onstage to the doomsday churn of “Night of the Lotus Eaters,” chanting the tracks’s refrain (“Get ready to shield yourself!”) and discarding the verses entirely. A gaunt spectre in gray pinstripes, he strapped on a guitar as the band slammed into Dig!!!’s title track, and the show was off like a cannonball. A string of lightbulbs framed the stage like a dressing-room mirror, emphasizing the theatrical-beyond-any-concern-of-parody nature of Cave’s preening, pointing, hand-squeezing stage manner. He even signed books for fans between songs.

The sold-out crowd welcomed vigorous concert staples like “The Weeping Song” and “Deanna” with fond expectation, and “The Mercy Seat” — already a key track in Cave’s thick songbook when his hero, Johnny Cash, covered it, pushing its stock even higher — was an apocalyptic showstopper, driven by the electric squall of Warren Ellis’s violin.

“It ain’t that great,” Cave demurred when a fan shouted for him to remove his clothes. But we’ll take 110 minutes of his soul over a flash of skin anytime.

A version of this review appears in today’s paper of Record.

NIGHT TWO was marginally less awesome, but still one of the best gigs I’ve seen this year. I’m not sure why Cave couldn’t get through “God Is in the House,” which he stopped and started three times before finally abandoning the tune to reprise “Love Letter” from the prior night. Or why he announced — but did not play — “The Ship Song” during the encore portion of the set both nights. But I was plenty grateful for what we got.

The Setlist – Sunday, October 5, 2008

01 Night of the Lotus Eaters
02 Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
03 Tupelo
04 The Weeping Song
05 Red Right Hand
06 Midnight Man
07 Love Letter
08 Hold on to Yourself
09 Moonland
10 The Mercy Seat
11 Deanna
12 Hard on for Love
13 We Call Upon the Author
14 Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry


15 Into My Arms
16 Get Ready for Love
17 The Lyre of Orpheus
18 Stagger Lee

The Setlist – Monday, October 6, 2008

01 Hold on to Yourself
02 Dig!!! Lazurus Dig!!!
03 Tupelo
04 The Weeping Song
05 Red Right Hand
06 Midnight Man
07 God Is in the House* (aborted) / Love Letter
08 Today’s Lesson*
09 The Mercy Seat
10 Moonland
11 Deanna
12 Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry
13 More News from Nowhere*


14 Your Funeral, My Trial*
15 Jesus of the Moon*
16 Get Ready for Love
17 Stagger Lee

*not performed the prior night

The B-52s at the 9:30: Everybody’s Fruggin’!

The B-52s’ mostly groove-tastic new album Funplex, is their first since 1992 (discounting compilations). They’ve never gone away, really — there’s been market enough for the kitch-krazed Athens, GA superfreaks to keep showing up and flogging “Rock Lobster” and “Love Shack” since then, and they probably could have kept right on doing that until the mothership returned to carry frontman/mascot Fred Schneider back to his home planet.

Though you’d hardly know it from their meaty, beady, big and bouncy 85-minute performance, the 52s’ packed-to-the-gills Saturday-night 9:30 Club gig marked the eve of singer Kate Pierson’s 60th birthday. But however suspicious the neon-redness of her hair, Pierson walked like an Egyptian and sang like siren all night, playing the World’s Coolest Grandma to Schneider’s Creepy Neighbor. (He claimed at one point to have 18 G-spots — a win for him; hard-to-delete mental imagery for us.) Pierson and Cindy Wilson’s high harmonies shined on the Schneider-less numbers “Roam” and the new “Juliet of the Spirits”; on the 50s sci-fi prologue of “Planet Claire,” Pierson wailed the organ part without a crack. Tres cool!

Nearly half the 16 tunes were from Funplex, built by guitarist/musical director Keith Strickland around a slight update to the 52s’ venerable formula: Pierson and Wilson’s girl-group chemistry, Schneider’s staccato interjections about robots, outer space, and, er, the “spandex spiral vortex,” plus rumbly grooves tricked out with eletronica beats circa 1996 or so. Whatevs; it works. Dance music sounds so, so much better when performed live by an actual band of flesh, blood, and several cubic yards of eyeliner. The airtight rhythm section of Tracy Wormworth (bass) and Sterling Campbell (drums) laid down a fat-bottomed groove for the four surviving original 52s (plus keyboardist Paul Gordon) to soar over. The presence of conspicuous number of audience members in drag helped the atmosphere of bacchanal, too. Everybody’s fruggin’!

The line “Let’s keep this party goin’ all night long / Things are getting’ dirty down in Washington!” was not a regionally-adapted bit of crowd-baiting; but in fact the actual lyric to the closing number on Funplex. Since it proved true beyond a doubt, one has to wonder what else Schneider wasn’t lying about. “Space-love in zero gravity”? The 18 G spots? Ow! My consciousness is expanding!

A shorter version of this review appears in today’s Paper of Record.

The B-52s at the 9:30 Club, Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Setlist

01 Pump

02 Mesopotamia

03 Private Idaho

04 Ultraviolet

05 Strobe Light

06 Party Out of Bounds

07 Juliet of the Spirits

08 Roam

09 Funplex

10 Hot Corner

11 Channel Z

12 Keep This Party Going

13 Love Shack


14 Planet Claire

15 Love in the Year 3000

16 Rock Lobster

The Band

Keith Strickland – lead guitar

Tracy Wormworth – bass

Paul Gordon – keyboards, guitar

Sterling Campbell – drums

Cindy Wilson – vocals, bongos

Kate Pierson – vocals

Fred Schneider – vocals, xylophone, tin whistle, mascot

Scrolling the BrucePod!

brucex-large.jpgElysa Gardner has a nice feature on Bruce in USA Today, er, today. But what’s really cool about it is the interactive graphic that lets you scroll through Bruce’s iPod.

The opportunities for analysis here are endless (The only Johnny Cash track is a freaking Sting cover!? The only Steve Earle song is a Johnny Cash cover? The lone Sleater-Kinney tune is a Bruce cover; did you even know S-K did “The Promised Land”? From Lucinda Williams, he’s got her gorgeous tribute to my former address, “Ventura.” And only one from Patti Scialfa?), but come on: iPods are the 21st century closets; we’ve all got some skeletons in there.

Actually, there are only one or a handful of tracks for most artists, suggesting that either the Boss has the blue-collar model iPod, with a capacity of maybe one gig, or else this was a carefully edited list pulled off his is iTunes library by his personal assistant for redlining by the Man Hisself. I’ve done stuff like this in my checkered professional past.

I spotted Elysa Gardner (saw her nametag, I mean) at the press preview for the Edward Hopper show at the National Gallery last fall. I really wanted to walk up to her and say, “You wrote the introduction to U2: The Rolling Stone Files!” But since I was there in a semi-professional capacity, it seemed important that I not appear insane.