Cat Power / Spiritualized / Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds @ Hollywood Bowl; Los Angeles, CA

September 18, 2008

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After missing Spiritualized twice since moving to LA, I decided that I would see the band on their next US tour no matter where they played. And although I would have rather experienced a full set in a smaller venue, I bought tickets to last night’s show at the Hollywood Bowl because, well, it’s been ten fucking years since I’ve seen Spiritualized live. How the hell did I let that happen? My inability to think of an answer to that question is what compelled me to purchase the tickets.

A lot has happened in the ten years since I was introduced to Spiritualized. I was fifteen years old in 1998 when the band supported Radiohead on their OK Computer US tour. I wrote all about it on my top ten list of best opening acts I’ve ever witnessed. Since then I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see them live, but most of them were during the Amazing Grace era, which I find to be their least enjoyable record. I was out of work when Jason Pierce brought his Acoustic Mainlines tour to the Vista Theater last year — which not two miles from where I live — so I couldn’t afford tickets. During the band’s warm-up run for Coachella they played at a theater in San Bernardino, but no one could join me on the two-hour adventure into the Inland Empire. So, Hollywood Bowl it was…

Nicci and I packed a bag with sandwiches, drinks and snacks, and drove to the Hollywood/Highland parking complex an hour before the show began. We sat in a nearly empty bowl, watching the sunset and munching on our foodstuffs. Cat Power went on at exactly 7:30, and performed for forty-five minutes. She sounded good (although anyone backed by Judah Bower and Jim White is going to sound awesome 99% of the time), but her voice and the songs were given the almost impossible task of filling a huge outdoor space. Her music simply did not blend with the venue. I imagine seeing her in a small, intimate setting would be great, but she was out of place last night. I’m pretty much convinced that Jim White is a God. I marvel at his drumming whenever I get to watch him live.

Spiritualized began promptly at 8:30 and played for about an hour. They opened with a fuzzed-out gospel-influenced rendition of “Amazing Grace” and launched into “You Lie You Cheat”. “Shine A Light”, “Soul On Fire” and “Death Take Your Fiddle” were good, but the highlights were “Walking With Jesus”, “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” (which included the Elvis-version outro), “Lay Back In The Sun” (the oldest song they played) and a roaring version of “Come Together” to close the set. As the song spiraled towards its conclusion, Pierce turned around and shoved the head of his Marshall amplifier off its cabinet, sending it crashing onto the stage. He then tossed his guitar aside and stalked offstage as the band brought the song home. Rock ‘n’ Roll!

Perhaps the coolest part of their set was watching the moon rise from behind the surrounding mountains. It made for some cool pictures. Overall, Spiritualized’s set didn’t quite satiate my thirst. As I stated earlier I would have much rather seen a full set from the band in a more intimate setting, but I’m glad that I finally got to see the band again.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were epic. Out of the three acts, they best commanded the space, delivering a powerful and gritty performance that made the Bowl seem so much smaller than it is. “Night Of The Lotus Eaters” began the set with a bang. When the full band came together, it was felt like a kick to the chest. With three percussionists locked together, their thunderous rhythms created the perfect backbone for Warren Ellis’ screaming and howling electric mandolin. “Red Right Hand,” described as a “A song written for Hollywood”, was dedicated to Wes Craven. “The Mercy Seat” was not nearly as fierce as it is on record, but it was still nice to hear. “Tupelo”, “Deanna” and “Dig Lazarus Dig” all sounded phenomenal. With a great mix of new and old songs and enough stage presence to command the attention of 17,000 people or however many souls can fit into the Hollywood Bowl.

Post Script: It’s been confirmed that Spiritualized will be playing a free show tomorrow night at the Echo. The dork from Deerhunter will be “spinning” for an hour and the band will play for about two hours. First come, first serve. We’ll see what happens…

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