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The show had no opening act. It sort of made sense. Who would want to follow Nick Cave + The Bad Seeds? The venue’s website proclaimed that the show would begin promptly at 8 p.m. but their policy of a complete search of any purses at the one doorway admitting people from 7-8 p.m. put the kibosh on that notion. By 8:00, the sold-out venue was still half empty. The show began about 20 minutes later, when The Bad Seeds filtered out to the stage and Cave arrived to begin with “Anthrocene” from “Skeleton Tree.” The haunting, mesmeric sound belied the band’s reputation for often barbarous drama, but as a big fan of the new album, I was pleased to hear new material up front.
After that warmup, it was time for the potent payload of “Jesus Alone” to entrance us. I can listen to this song for an hour at a time on repeat, so this one really set me off. The droning, trancelike construction of the song successfully created a world that pulled us into the literate, but troubling world Cave was creating onstage. The droning of Warren Ellis’ synth affects me just like a tar pit does to a mammoth. I could not let go of this song even if I had wanted to. Meanwhile, Cave stalked the stage wildly, just like an Armani scarecrow. His gangling form resplendent in his trademark suit.
Having been served up such a potent performance, next came another “Skeleton Tree” track, “Magneto.” Then the band pulled out another showstopper: “Higgs Boson Blues” from “Push The Sky Away.” The performance had my wife and I [as well as our friends] enrapt as the dramatic lighting, the subtlety of The Bad Seeds on this newer material, and the stalking artiste himself at the front of the stage, engaging the packed rows of fans who poured into the pit as the security at the venue seemingly did not care one whit. Cave would vacillate between stage left and stage right; occasionally throwing down his mic to the floor with a slight thud [fast work there, soundman] as he would occasionally bolt to the piano at center stage for some heartfelt chords during instrumental passages.
Kudos were in order for the sound crew, since the show was almost perfect sounding. Cave’s vocals were powerful and clear, and the band would be vivid in the soundfield, with all manner of instrumentation discernible in the mix. If Jim Sclavunos picked up a percussion instrument, by George, you heard it. After the opening quartet of nouveau Cave, it was next time for some solid classics to rear their heads. I remember when “From Her To Eternity” came out but if you can believe it, I had never heard the title track. This was finally rectified in a blistering performance that positively crackled with electricity. The dramatic lighting and more than anything, Cave’s stage demeanor conspired to etch this one into one’s brain. It was at this point that I turned to my wife and asked “tell me again why we are only just seeing this guy?!” I can be so clueless at times, but at least when a small voice within suggests “now is the time to see Nick Cave,” at least I listened!
Next: …The Storm Before The Calm