I saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Balboa Theater in San Diego Wednesday night


I saw the Nick Cave show I have always wanted to see. I’ve been listening to Nick and the Bad Seeds and the Birthday Party for nearly 20 years but haven’t seen them. I guess I half suspected a more mellow show given the new album. I even stared at my earplugs before I left my house and thought “I won’t need them for this show.”

Jesus Christ, was I wrong. They opened with “We Know Who U R” from the new record, Push the Sky Away, and followed with “Jubilee Street.” I was in the third row on the right hand side of the theater (stage left) and they’d built out a little platform from the stage where Nick stood for most of “Jubilee Street” and would revisit throughout the show. But just seeing him run over during the second song was startling. There was Nick Cave, standing over me.

Pretty soon they hit “O Deanna” — one of my favorites — and it just shook the place. God, it was powerful. “From Her to Eternity” was even moreso. It was so agitating and violent that I just wanted to scream or tear the place up. I don’t say this lightly: It was fucking amazing. During “Red Right Hand,” Nick walked right out into the seats in front of me, over my row and into the crowd. I don’t know any musician who could do that with such authority and command such respect. No one was tearing at his clothes. No one was jostling the rest of the audience to get to him.

For the rest of the show, they crashed through every song I wanted to hear. “Weeping Song”? Check. “Jack the Ripper,” “Mercy Seat.” During a short piano set, Nick played my favorite song from The Boatman’s Call, “People Ain’t No Good” and then asked, “Do you want to hear another of those ballad-y things?” before playing two more.

After a shrieking, blazing, supernova of a performance of “Stagger Lee,” they left the stage.

For their encore they opened with what is possibly my favorite song, “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry,” which caused a little internal (possibly external) freak out from me. Then the crowd shouted for “Tupelo” and they hit it, the darkest song about Elvis you could ever imagine. They closed with “Push the Sky Away.”

It was a concert experience that left me in shreds. It was everything I knew about Cave and the Bad Seeds but hadn’t experienced yet. I couldn’t have asked for anything else.