Weekend Concert Round-Up
It was like Reading Festival 1990 revisited with the Buzzcocks, Nick Cave
and the Bad Seeds and David Gedge in Chicago this weekend. It's more of a
coincidence since many other acts that played the three-day music festival
in England have been in town recently or are on their way soon: The Cramps,
Wire, the Fall. All we need now is a Pixies reunion, since I'm certainly
not hoping to ever see Ned's Atomic Dustbin again.
Buzzcocks, Metro, June 20
I think one of the Ramones said that they didn't think they were doing anything
unusual or revolutionary, they were just playing pop songs really fast. The
description is even more apt for the Buzzcocks. Their fat-free set was full
of sing-along choruses and giddy, revved-up pop songs. Original members Pete
Shelley and Steve Diggle are looking a bit paunchy but are still adorable
and had a relentless joie de vie throughout the performance.
Opening act Billy Talent was like a second-rate Fugazi tribute band with
a pointlessly angry front man. A heckler called out, "Play a good song."
They responded with a cover Fugazi's "Waiting Room," a more explicit nod
to their most obvious influence. The heckler should have been more specific
and requested that they play a good song well.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Chicago Theatre, June 21
Nick may be around the same age as the Buzzcocks, but he's as wiry as ever.
He and the Bad Seeds delivered a set of intense drama. Highlights included
"God is in the House," which sounded like the writings of Dr. Suess if he
were southern preacher, and the escalated interpretation of "The Mercy Seat,"
which started slowly and quietly, creeping up to a frenzied crescendo. They
closed with "Babe I'm on Fire," a song so long and densely verbose that he
required one Paul (Pall?) Bearer to hold cue cards with the lyrics.
Cinerama, Abbey Pub, June 21
Sally Murrell, Cinerama's keyboard player and backing vocalist, no longer
tours with the band. For a band founded on a more orchestral sound to differentiate
them from David Gedge's old band the Wedding Present, they sound rather like
the Wedding Present in concert, including David Gedge and Simon Cleave's
blistering, furious twin guitar attack. They were road-testing new material
but mainly focused on their (relatively) better known tunes, including "Superman"
and "Quick, Before It Melts." Sally's absence and therefore the absence of
her backing vocals could explain why they passed on "Wow," a stand-out song
from Disco Volante, but they more than made up for it by resurrecting
the Wedding Present song "Kennedy."
Early on, David informally polled the audience about whether they preferred
the Abbey Pub or the Empty Bottle, where the band has played frequently in
the past. He got a mixed response. Perhaps he should have asked further into
the set. Unless one is in the rather limited sweet spot at the Abbey Pub,
their sound system is muddy, but the Empty Bottle provides not only better
viewing lines with a wider stage but livelier sound throughout the club.