Nick Cave at the Park West


March 24, 2001

By Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic


"People just ain't no good," Nick Cave sang on Thursday night. "I think that's well understood."

At 43, the famously dark and dire singer-songwriter is reportedly happier than he's ever been. He married a woman named Susie Bick in 1999, bought a houseboat and a terraced house in London, and became the proud father of twin sons.

But the gloom-meister hasn't let his personal bliss unduly color his professional sturm und drang.

Performing for a crowd of the faithful during the first of two sold-out shows at the Park West, Cave was as intense as ever, effectively evoking the frightening bloodlust of "Stagger Lee," the deathbed conversion of the man who's about to be strapped into "The Mercy Seat," and the burning skepticism of the avowed atheist in "God Is In the House."

Cave also offered his own, typically twisted version of a lullaby: the haunting "Papa Won't Leave You, Henry." Should we be surprised if his boys grow up to resemble Pugsly Addams?

Cave is gearing up for the April release of "No More Shall We Part," a new album with his band, the Bad Seeds, and the full group will tour in September. Their last performance here at Metro in 1998 still ranks as one of the most powerful concerts I've ever seen.

The Park West show didn't match that peak, but it was still a tasty appetizer. Cave performed on grand piano with minimal backing from bassist Susan Stenger (formerly of Band of Susans) and Dirty Three veterans Warren "Showboat" Ellis on violin and Jim White on drums.

The only thing that detracted from the evening was a misdirected invitation for requests from fans. Cave spent the rest of the night being besieged by bozos who shouted out song titles--sometimes in the middle of quiet musical passages.

Opening for Cave: the first lady of Chicago folk-rock. Sally Timms performed a short but exquisite set of her own poignant murder ballads and forlorn love songs with simple backing from a drum machine and one guitar.