Oct 27, 2010

Sparkle, With An Edge

I'm not the biggest fan of movie-to-anything adaptations. It's unfair, but productions tend to become laden with so many expectations and comparisons so as to sink the show before a note is sung. Lord Of The Rings is a case in point: the 2006-2007 musical suffered in comparison to Peter Jackson's epic film series of the early aughties. No matter how silly, small-minded, and un-visionary it may be, people who've seen a movie are going to come to its theatrical counterpart expecting to see some kind of approximation. How excellent then, that the musical version of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert does so well in that regard, and, in the process, carves out its own totally-fabulous niche.

Maybe it's because the splashy work is made up of fun 70s and 80s tunes. Maybe it's the fact the nature of the work (moving between the exquisiteness of intentional artifice and serious themes) lends itself to the visual. Maybe it's strong direction, acting, choreography, and design. Or maybe it's a combination of the all of the above. Seriously, this show's a winner in all its glittery, glammy glory; it's fun, fabulous, and stuffed with real feelings. I can't think of a better way to light up a dark Toronto winter than to scamper down King Street, platform heels and all, to see it in all its disco-ball, swirling-bus glory. It's really that good.

Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert: The Musical made its North American debut Tuesday night in Toronto. It carries high hopes on its sparkly platform shoes -or make that shoe, which sits aloft the bus ("Priscilla") which the characters travel in across Australia. The story adheres closely to the 1994 film, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, loud costumes, lewd language, and lots -lots -of buff, sexy men. Mitzi (also known as "Tick"), the hyper Felicia, and the classy transexual Bernadette travel across the country to play a casino in Alice Springs. It's there Mitzi/Tick reunites with his long-lost wife and the son he's never met. The musical version has added a few sparkling elements, including three angel-like figures who pop down from the top of the stage and belt out 70s and 80s pop numbers with aplomb, like sparkly muses floating above the performers' heads. The show's music is entirely made up of pop-radio favorites, including predictable (if dancey) hits like Madonna's "Material Girl", Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors", and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive". As if to emphasize the glam, there's a huge sparkly shoe, and disco ball, that go into the audience, along with a few pounds of confetti and plenty of risque costumes (yes, bare-bum-exposing), all of which make the show feel less of a theatre piece than a Pride party in the Princess of Wales Theatre. In staid, conservative-theatre-loving Toronto, that can only be a good thing.

Will Swenson gives a tender, touching performance as a man trying to reconcile various aspects of his past and present with his ever-fluid identities -as father, performer, and gay man; his duet with son Benjamin (Luke Mannikus) was genuinely throat-lump inducing, even with the amusing pseudo-Elvis impersonations. "You Were Always On My Mind" feels both camp and touching at once -and it's rare the two can co-exist peacefully in any cultural moment, let alone in a musical where camp is considered de rigeur. As the catty Felicia, performer Nick Adams ups the camp ante to 100, ferociously throwing out one-line bon mots and dancing like his life depends on it. He proves himself both a huge comic relief and a deeply magnetic stage presence.

Anger, abs, and tears aside, I found Tony Sheldon's performance as the elder stateswoman of the troupe most moving; he didn't have the bitter bite of Terence Stamp's filmic counterpart (see? comparisons are inevitable!) but instead conveyed a remarkable combination of dignity, warmth, and longing. Having played Bernadette over one thousand times onstage, and with a lengthy list of theatre credits (including performing in works by Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams and Stephen Sondheim), Sheldon brings a refreshing sense of balance, toning down the campy, outlandish qualities of the show. An older man playing a tranny, toning things down? True. More than anyone, Sheldon clearly conveys the sense of outsider-ness the troupe face in the wider world. Hiding behind big sunglasses, long, blonde hair, and louche outfits a la Lauren Bacall, there's a remarkable sense of sadness combined with faint vestiges of hope. Sheldon shares a nice chemistry with Canadian actor C. David Johnson (as a kind mechanic), and conveys confident poise, particularly when coming to the defence of Felicia after he's been beaten up in the tough town of Coober Pedy. Bernadette's response to a rough cowboy's rude demand is perfectly executed, and superbly delivered. Ouch.

While it would be easy for the performers to fall back on Thomson's eye-popping design, but thanks to Phillips' instinctual direction and the strong chemistry between the three leads, that thankfully doesn't happen. But it must be said: the set is a magnificent thing to behold, as is that sparkly bus of the title. Designer Thomson borrows liberally from the rock and roll world in his use of LED screens and colour. It was interesting, in watching the show, to see just how much the music-and-theatre worlds collide Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical. Remnants of past tours involving artists as diverse of Parliament Funkadelic, Madonna, David Bowie, and even U2 were discernible in the set, lighting, and costume design. There is a definite element of rock-pop concert to the proceedings here, adding a party-like atmosphere, and keeping nicely in-step with Mirvish's other big production, Rock of Ages, which is currently playing down the street.

With gorgeous visuals, jaw-dropping costumes, genuinely joyful performances, energetic choreography, and peppy musical arrangements, one is nudged into the realms of beautiful fantasy here, even as we're pushed out of that fantasy and shown a much uglier side. The decision to not flinch away from hatred is brave. Showing the nasty lettering that gets spray-painted on the side of Priscilla following a performance the gals give in another small town they travel through allows for a vital bitter edge amidst the sugar. Likewise, keeping the salty language of the film version shows tremendous respect to the source, as well as to the essential nature of the characters being portrayed. Like the movie, the work examines the ugliness of homophobia without dwelling on it. By the end, the definition of 'family' -in all its complications and challenges -has been stretched and moulded into something much deeper and wider than any of the characters could've imagined at the start. If you're in Toronto, take your feather boa'd self to the Princess of Wales for some solid, first-rate theatre; if you're not in Toronto, well... get in that bus. Just remember to bring your dancing shoes.

Photo credits:

Top Photo: Company: Foreground (l to r) Will Swenson, Tony Sheldon, Nick Adams in the North American premiere production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical Photo by Joan Marcus.

Middle Photo: Will Swenson and Luke Mannikus in the North American premiere production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical Photo by Joan Marcus.

Bottom Photo:
Tony Sheldon as Bernadette by Tristram Kenton.

Oct 24, 2010

A New Vision

When Matthew Jocelyn and I sat down recently to talk about the new Canadian Stage season and how to make the Canadian theatre scene better, I never could have foreseen the amazing insights that would emerge from that short conversation.

I already covered the company's 2010-2011 announcement several month ago, and was properly impressed, but I was eager to know the whys and wherefores, and just how Jocelyn, who is the company's Artistic and General Director, planned to make this season appealing to a city where the great majority of theatre-goers (the ones not in the luvvie camp) far prefer the safe and familiar (and frequently cutesy) instead of the new and strange (and frequently ugly -if fascinating). How to integrate the instinct of elevation with the necessity of sales? It's a tough riddle to work out, especially within the harsh conditions many Canadian artists live and work (or try to work) under.

There are many untrue cultural stereotypes of Canadians: that we all like hockey, that we love winter, that we say "eh" after everything, and we worship Tim Horton's coffee. (Cue my extreme eyerolling.) The one stereotype I'd argue holds a kernel of truth is that, by and large, we don't like experimentation when it comes to the arts, and we're leery about artists who push the envelope. (As an aside, dear Lady Gaga fans: a Canadian did it first.) Jocelyn, by virtue of living abroad for so long, wants to change the Canadian tendency toward caution in the arts -gently, yes, and with much patience too, but with an equally clear vision of his company's 21st century mandate and its relationship with Toronto. A theatre company should do more than put on safe, middle-of-the-road stuff, but at the same time, shouldn't isolate either its core supporters or potential newcomers with art-with-a-capital-A material.



What's notable (and heartening) is our too-brief discussion of how the internet has really rendered thee companies more able to communicate between and amongst one another -so whether you're in Dublin or London or New York (or even Toronto!), sharing and exchange ideas has never been more prevalent -or more important. No company is an island, or in this age, can afford to be. It's a lesson well worth heeding.

A note to my international readers: please don't think you have to be in Toronto to enjoy this chat. The things Mr. Jocelyn discusses -marketing, outreach, planning a season, trying to balance populist choices with an embrace of new, multi-cultural programming -are issues every arts company faces, everywhere. Let me now what you think; if you're an Artistic or General Director, I want to know how you're tackling the challenges of attracting and cultivating audiences with making interesting, inspired programming choices. As my chat with Mr. Jocelyn taught me, cultural exchange is more than a few complimentary words left on a Facebook wall.

Oct 22, 2010

Desperately Seeking

Amidst LG Fashion Week, theatre openings, a benefit gala, and a sure-to-be-kick-ass concert, I'm also looking for this, in book and film form:



Also: I fully intend on posting audio from my interviews with Ivy Knight and Kristina Groeger as well as Matthew Jocelyn this weekend. Furthermore, I'm hoping to post my long-overdue recipe for Moroccan vegetable stew very soon, especially since I've been recommended on Twitter by more than a few people for my food writing. Aww.

In the meantime, seeking the punk-rock cabaret-glam of Breakfast on Pluto. McCabe, Murphy, Jordan, Rea, Friday, yes please, more. Amen.

Oct 16, 2010

You Knead It

Saturday mornings I want nothing more than my French press coffee & a good croissant or pain au chocolat. Such was the case this morning; with no decent boulangerie within walking distance, I was left sighing over my beautiful copy of Bourke Street Bakery: The Ultimate Baking Companion. The hefty hardcover book (published by Harper Collins) is chalk-full of yummy-looking photos of all manner of fancy pastries featured in the famous Sydney bakery that's owned and run by co-bakers Paul Allam and David McGuinness.

The book is fantastic for not only its photos but its impressive array of recipes; along with sweets, there's a variety of breads and delectable savouries, including pizzas and meat pies. Flipping back and forth between the beef pie and flatbread recipes, I returned once again to the beautiful croissant dough recipe before me. Would I do it? Could I? Alas, with bare feet, black slip, and crazy hair, it didn't seem like the right time; the easel was calling, and I was barely awake. I didn't feel like scaring myself either. Sure, I'll happily go about my Christmas baking business every December, cutting out sugar cookies and fussing over gingerbread, but when it comes to pastry and stuff I deem fancy... my knees buckle and I get butterflies. True.

Ivy Knight's upcoming Bake-Off Night at Toronto's Drake Hotel hopes to dispel this kind of nervousness, while giving you something to chew on -literally -when it comes to the approachability of baking. The prolific food writer and consultant is hosting five prominent Toronto food bloggers this coming Monday night; each has chosen a recipe from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook to offer up to the hungry masses, who will then vote for their favorite. The democratization of baking? Hmm. Art Battle, meet the rolling pin & baking tin.

The event is part of Ivy's regular 86'd Mondays, which are fun, informative, food-themed events that happen at the Drake. In the past, these events have revolved around professional cooks only; Monday's Bake-Off will feature almost entirely home cooks, save for Kristina Groeger. I interviewed both Kristina and Ivy recently about the event; we shared ideas around home cooks vs restaurant cooks, the joys (and fears) of baking, and the role of the online world in helping food culture proliferate. Our yack will be airing on CIUT this coming Monday morning on morning show Take 5, between 8am and 10amET. I'll try to get a copy of our interview up here at Play Anon later on Monday in case you miss it.

Right now I'm imagining all the bloggers proofing, kneading, and rolling their hearts out. Hmmm, I wonder if any of them are making croissants... and if I could get an order for next Saturday morning. Oui?


Addendum: The audio of my conversation with Ivy and Kristina is here:



Incidentally, it was Kristina who wound up winning the bake-off with her pulled-pork pies. Mmmm.

Oct 12, 2010

There Are No Mistakes

It's been a big step for me to share my artwork. It's taken years, practise, contemplation, and well... just keeping at the drawing/painting/sketching. Thanks to confidence, as well as a substantial leap in technology, I'm now able to share a very-small morsel of my own artistic output.

It's somewhat strange, as a journalist, to be sharing another aspect of my life so publicly. I definitely hold a very-precious and delicate part of myself up for scrutiny -and yet, that's the risk of every artist: putting little shards of your own self out there for oohs or boos. For me, it's analogous to sex-for-sex, or sex-with-big-feelings. Both are good, but one is riskier. It's easy to get naked, but to strip away the superficial and reveal true soul -that's hard. But it's the call any artist worth his or her salt must heed in order to grow, and, I think, to develop spiritually as a human being. The ability to create -bodily, verbally, mechanically, culinarily, technically, virtually, with imagination, gusto, and fearlessness -is something I suspect we need to embrace in order to move forwards, personally and societally.

Thanks in no small part to one truly gifted artist I met during my time living in Dublin, I've felt confident enough to throw my paint-splattered hat in the ring, damning the consequences and inevitable sneers. The encouragement I've received since has been really, really heartening, as has every little bit of feedback.

This is a work-in-progress -both the sharing and the artwork itself -so all I ask is, look, and let me know if you have ideas, reaction, tips. I want to hear them.

Night, originally uploaded by catekustanczi.

Oct 11, 2010

Big And Proud

You'd expect opera to be "big" but... in some cases, you'd be wrong.

As I detailed in my last blog post, the grandeur normally associated with the opera Aida has been unceremoniously stripped away in the most recent production from the Canadian Opera Company. This would be noble, but for the fact that the concept itself trumps the heart of the piece, rendering it a hollow, pretentious shell, and giving it the sort of empty grandeur director Tim Albery was purposely going against. That doesn't mean I didn't have a super-thrilling, emotional experience involving grandeur the very-same night, though. Quite the opposite.

"Big" as a concept (specifically applied to a live musical event) was openly celebrated once outside the Four Seasons Centre the night of Aida's opening. My opera-mate and I walked into the start of Nuit Blanche, the fifth annual all-night celebration of all things artistic. Now, I railed against the event in this blog last year, but having spoken with several people who both work inside of it and/or adore it, well... my position has somewhat softened. I have to admit, it does offer a cool experience, though I wish it was more than once a year (say, in the summer, during or just before Luminato) and not just a single all-night, foot-wrecking event. This year I was eager to see Daniel Lanois' brilliant, beautiful Later That Night At The Drive-In, held at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square, directly in front of City Hall. The space is normally a huge, empty expanse of concrete, with a functioning ink rink in the winter, but during this year's Nuit Blanche, it was utterly transformed into... well, a drive-in. Kind of. Together with local artists and a team of talented organizers, Lanois had transformed the space into a truly communal setting where the idea of "spectacle" (whether it be drive-in, rock concert, whatever) was being mocked, milked, celebrated, and shared.

As if in direct opposition to Albery and his pretentiously over-wrought 'concept', here, the sense of civic grandeur was played into and played with; to quote Madonna, "Music makes the people come together", or, of course, the man himself, "I'm not a stranger in the eyes of the maker" -and the maker was us, him, the night, the light, the shadows, the speakers, the sets of eyes and ears and hearts, beating together and out-of-time, in-time, with music, beats, and angles. The maker was the place itself and the people filling it. Visually, 'Drive-In' was intoxicating: a series of geometric screens were set up all over the square, on scrims and tall screens, offering live feeds of action happening further inside -but this wasn't a glorified concert experience. The visuals portrayed dancers, prancers, techies, hanger-ons, and onlookers. If there's one word to describe the experience, it'd be "immersive" -one was literally immersed in sound, light, colour, and the experience of togetherness within the grandeur of a large outdoor music thingamadoodle. Really. I got the keen sense Lanois et al were purposely keeping away from easy definitions in their presentation, that they were going after something already extant within Lanois' music: the magical, the meditative, the intimate and the epic, all at once.

So it was no accident the music emanating from Later That Night At The Drive-In was audible three city blocks away. That's not to say it was L-O-U-D in the rock concert way; rather, there was a feeling of intimacy and sharing amidst the Nuit Blanche crowds, and surrounding this most grand of events, in one of the city's biggest outdoor public spaces. Instead of shunning the idea of "big", Lanois and his team were openly embracing it, using the intimacy and immediacy of live music to draw people together. A huge mirror was mounted above the small, Arabesque stage on an extreme angle, so that the small square became a kind of hallowed, silvery frame, bathing everything -and everyone -both in and outside of it in a holy, haunting light that whispered, "you are here, I am here, we are all together... "

Whatever expectations onlookers may have brought were both exceeded and gently, deftly, pushed to one side. Big isn't always bad; there just has to be a big heart behind it, one to make all the others feel they're somehow a part of it -singing, playing, dancing, moving and being moved. At the end of the day, Big Idea has to equal Big Heart, and sometimes, with the right amount of care, it also equals Big Art. Bravo Monsieur Lanois.

Oct 10, 2010

Whither Aida?

Two vastly different, but related experiences of grandeur, have got me thinking about the value of big productions, culturally and otherwise. The Canadian Opera Company opened its latest season October 2nd with a startling, strangely unmoving production of Verdi's Aida. The company, headed by the brilliant Alexander Neef, has seen an upswing in its popularity among younger culture vultures of the city (so much so that local fave Broken Social Scene will be headling their annual fundraising ball) while keeping their vital older subscriber base happy -until now, anyway. The production of Aida on now manages to confuse, infuriate, and perhaps worst of all... bore.

Like any good opera-goer, I've seen my share of staged Aidas -mainly at the Met, it should be noted, with live animals & a chorus numbering in the hundreds. Budget?!, you want to shriek when the gold-leaf-everythings are wheeled in alongside blinding elephants and bored-looking horses, what budget? Aida isn't staged too often precisely because it's so expensive, and often, the baggage that travels with it isn't just the kind you can see. And the magic of the romance inherent within the tale gets lost amidst the grandeur. The tale of the Ethiopian slave-princess and her doomed love affair with the Egyptian captain Radames is Big Operatic Melodrama -which is fine -though coupled with Verdi's stirring, awesome score, means you have the makings of an audience full of expectations: the set should be big, the emoting should be grand, the orchestra should be really, really loud. Right? Wrong, or so says director Tim Albery and COC music director Johannes Debus. Albery has purposely shied away from the Big Everything approach, eschewing grandeur in favour of story, subtext, and even meta-theatrical musings on the nature of performer-audience relations.

So there's no Egyptophilia here, which would be a refreshing change if Albery's production wasn't so intent on going in the contrary direction for the sake of it. It's a noble instinct to try to re-define an old operatic chestnut, but the idea kills the emotion. Set in some 1980s Trump-like super-state, where the Egyptian politicos are in tailored suits (a la Mad Men) and the ladies are trussed up like gaudy pseudo-Ivana cyborgs, the delicacy and beauty of both the story and the music are nearly lost. Nearly. Thank heavens (make that Isis) for Debus' stunningly keen musical direction. Never have I heard such a beautiful, stirring, poetic rendering of Verdi's score as here. It greatly helps that the cast, lead by the utterly awesome Sondra Radvanovsky (making her COC debut) are fantastic. Radvanovsky's delicate, heartfelt approach to the material is gorgeous.

If only the same could be said of Albery's direction, which positively reeks of over-stylization and heavy-handedness. While I enjoyed his underlining of the horrors of colonialism during the triumphal march, the gold-lame-come-stripper priestesses and humping skeletons did little to add to one's understanding or appreciation of Ghislanzoni's libretto; the whole concept felt forced, insipid, and arrogant -and playing right into the kind of grandeur it was supposedly turning its back on.

In my next blog, I'll be detailing the big event that did move me deeply -one that openly embraced largeness, and used it to incredible effect to create a sense of intimacy and wonder. Stay tuned...

Aida Photo Credits: © 2010 Michael Cooper

Oct 8, 2010

The Art Of The Duel

Today marks the one-year anniversary of heads, the salon-style speaking event I helped to co-organize. It featured Ruth Klahsen of Monforte Dairy and Chung Wong of Givernation, as well as the first public edition of Art Battle, a competitive event that pitted two painters against one another in a timed event that the public could view and, once the pieces were complete, vote on.

While heads didn't survive, Art Battle has rocketed into the stratosphere of popularity within Toronto's cultural community. It's so popular in fact, that the popular weekly Now Toronto is running a live feed of tonight's event starting at 8pm ET.

The premise is simple: pit two painters against one another, live, for a specific amount of time (usually twenty minutes). When finished, the observers get to vote on a favorite, which is then auctioned off. The losing painting... can sometimes meet an ugly end. Or not. There are three rounds, and the public has the opportunity of being in one of those rounds. Fun? Scary? Nuts? Brilliant? All of the above.

I had the opportunity of interviewing the co-founders of Art Battle, Simon Plashkes and Chris Pemberton, about the hows and whys around pitting painters (sometimes well-known, sometimes not; sometimes not even painters) against one another in a public arena.

Toronto's Art Battle by CateKusti

I have to admit, I've never been 100% sold on the idea of putting painters within a competitive arena. The very nature of it -people gawking and talking, holding cold beers and varying expectations, combined with the added pressure of an unforgiving stopwatch -means the essential nature of the artist's output will be vastly different to what they'd produce in an actual studio. But who's to judge which is better? That's an interesting question worth exploring. And there is something fortifying about the level of community input and involvement Art Battle has consciously sought. I love the fact that Art Battle has encouraged those who've never put brush to canvas before to give it a try (both publicly and not). It's equally heartening to see the curiosity Torontonians have shown towards Art Battle, rendering it the big success it is now.

Kudos to Simon, Chris, the entire Art Battle team -and not least of all to all the artists, past, present, and future, who continue to re-define that most contentious of words -"art" -and what our relationship to it is. Bravo.

Photo courtesy of Art Battle Toronto.

Oct 6, 2010

The Grind

So much seen and done over the past week. Nuit Blanche, the opening of the Canadian Opera Company season, and the Brickworks Picnic within the last few days (to say nothing of the myriad of wonderful people I've interviewed on-air recently) ... you'd think I'd choose something more timely to write about than a concert that's still over a month away. But thanks to a fabulous Twitter contact and a bit of online listening (along with a whack of sentimentality), well ... sometimes the music chooses us, softly crooning -or in this case, mawkishly shrieking -a chorus of angular 'musts' and jagged 'nows' -as in, Write Something Now. Sometimes I ignore that call; sometimes I toss away the turgid details of everyday life away and just dance. Then I pour a glass of something wonderful and write.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was not the first band I saw solo -but the first time I saw Nick Cave et al I did happen to be solo. The difference is fine but important. Special is the artist (or collection of artists) that I'll merrily throw away social anxiety to become purposely lost in the Enchanted Forest of Noise. But Cave is that special breed of artist. Recently I came across a review I breathlessly typed up many moons ago for an international music zine. In those dot-matrix filled pages, I enthused, admired, mused, and wondered at the sonic noise/poetic genius of the Bad Seeds. At the time Nick Cave had a sizeable troupe with him; not only was he joined by original members Mick Harvey, Martyn Casey, Thomas Wydler, Conway Savage, & the ever-amazing Blixa Bargeld, but he was joined by two musicians who, in retrospect, changed the course of his -and their (and possibly even my) creative output. Warren Ellis and Jim Sclavunos added a creepy, dramatic, other-worldly feel to an already-raucous musical outfit. I remember beeing especially impressed with Ellis' stomping and passionate embrace of his violin, conjuring evil, twisted spirits, whacking his instrument's wooden body and plucking its strings, a possessed look on his (then-handsome) face.

I came away from the evening with a wholly new appreciation of musicianship, the art of the band as a concept, and the joy of spontaneously solo-show-going. There was something about being alone that rendered me much more open to everything. It was as if my aural/emotional/spiritual absorbative powers increased twenty-fold. And, as a woman, I was suddenly free to expore -and embrace -the amazing power of my own aggression within a positive context. Even now, more than a decade later, that night lives within me. And re-reading my young and breathless review makes me want to step out of my grown-upish, self-imposed (and kind of boring) safety zone, even just for one night, to jump and dance through that mad forest of sonic mayhem again.





The internet gods seems to be with me. A few nights ago, I engaged in an online conversation about Cave's other band, Grinderman, and the wonders of their live set. I'd been debating going to Grinderman's concert here in Toronto in November. There are so many "unlike" factors: I don't like lines, I don't like crowds, and I most definitely don't like being pushed and shoved. My short stature renders me a near-target for boots-in-the-head and obnoxious tall people who can't dance standing in front of me. That's to say nothing of the wild, horrific social anxiety I feel when entering a club gig alone -it's like there's a sticker on my head reading"Lone Thirty-Something Woman Lacking A Relationship." I bring little but my opinions and big hair; the heels stay firmly in the closet. But social anxiety and the fear of being judged melt away like butter in a hot frying pan the minute an artist (or group of artists) I love takes to the stage. The magical, and frankly, sexy melange of lights, costumes, body language, sound, and frankly, the knowledge there's a few hundred (or thousand) sweaty bodies behind me is, all together, deeply, almost dangerously intoxicating. I wind up staying awake long after such experiences, staring out windows, drawing, sipping wines and trying not to leap to easy definitions or categories. Some experiences are too deep for that.

But try my darndest I did back when I first saw the Bad Seeds. That sense of joy, that freedom, that wiping away of time and space and social anxieties ... they touch on something profound about the power of art, and the role it plays in shaping identities. I think I'll go see Grinderman. Maybe I'll write a breathy blog. Or maybe, this time, I'll savour the experience like a tasty, sweet bonbon enjoyed in a dark, silent room. Either way, being a part of the magical sound of Nick Cave and (as I put it in 1998) his "band of unmerry men" will always be a treat. I may not be able to come down and write about it for a while, though. And that's probably a good thing.