September 25th, 2008
I admit, I haven’t been a Nick Cave fan for years and years on end; in fact, I only heard the Birthday Party for the first time a few winters ago. And I don’t necessarily identify with the ripened Goth contingent (still sporting black lipstick, mind you) that has fastidiously followed him and managed to snatch up all the tickets before the all-ages crowd could say “murder”. The man commands respect, however, and I dove in head first with his disgustingly lovelorn and unhinged side project, Grinderman, last year. Needless to say, it sparked a sort of severe interest this brain hasn’t seen since it discovered David Bowie, the statuesque glam-queen by whom all other bold, iconic musicians I now judge.
No, Cave doesn’t have the same history and widespread appeal that the Thin White Duke has enjoyed over time, but as his work with three successful bands and on countless film scores over the span of thirty-five years (!) would suggest, the old bugger obsessed with “pussy, murder, and God” has definite staying power. And the other night at the Showbox Sodo (9/23), the greasy, grimy character and his cohorts showed us exactly how it’s done.
The show began with a new Bad Seeds murder ballad from Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, the ominous “Night of the Lotus Eaters”, dark blue lighting enhanced by Martyn Casey’s dark, unwavering bass line. The title track from the record came next, and, honestly, it wasn’t nearly as impactful as the studio version. They changed up the instrumentation somewhat (which would be a general theme for the rest of the set), and it came across a bit hurried. Nevertheless, the intensity of the band would soon increase and the struttin’ and pacing, pointing and cursing of Cave would follow.
Despite the overwhelming presence of the perpetually vexed Aussie entertaining the crowd with his brash and boozy storytelling, the band was certainly able to keep up with the pace. Mick Harvey, one of the two original Seeds along with Cave, switched continuously from electric to acoustic to keyboard; Jim Sclavunos manned two of three (!) drumkits, one of which was a set of conga drums; and Warren Ellis—the Charles-Manson-with-a-boudoir lookin’ guy—absolutely tore it up on his guitar. Not to mention his work with the violin (both with finger and bow), coffee can, and Jethro Tull-style rock flute. As pictured below.
The set list the band put together consisted of several tracks off Dig!!! and then one or two from some of the older records like Tender Prey, The Good Son, and Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. One notable omission was anything from Let Love In, which, along with Murder Ballads, is the trademark record for this band. Despite that exclusion, however, the older cuts they did manage to play were fantastic and filled with passion and power. “Stagger Lee” showed Cave at his indulgent showman best; “The Mercy Seat” and “The Lyre of Orpheus” got the crowd emphatically singing along; “Get Ready For Love” rocked from beginning to end; and “The Weeping Song”, maybe the highlight, was turned up a few notches to match the rowdy spirit rolling through the venue.
In short, the band was tighter than the vintage pinstripe suit Nick Cave sported.
There’re a few more pics after the jump.