Nick Cave has been consistently producing work since the late 70s and always into the arms of an adoring fan base, of which I am very much a part. This is why I could barely contain my excitement when The Bad Seeds announced they would be playing the Enmore Theatre on March 9 to promote their 13th studio album, Push the Sky Away. The album is a lot more stripped back and dissonant than 2008’s Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! and sees Cave cast his gaze on topics that seem a bit out of left field, such as Twitter and Miley Cyrus. However, the show itself was as much a greatest hits show as anything else.
The show was opened by Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees. I am familiar with the Screaming Trees but not so much with Lanegan’s solo work so I can’t recall any song names or the like. What I can say was his deep, mournful vocals certainly kept the majority of the crowd entertained and worked beautifully with the Bad Seeds when he came back on during their set to play “The Weeping Song”.
However, when the Bad Seeds took the stage and opened the set with “We No Who U R” (the main single from the new album and one fans would be a little more familiar with than others), all else was forgotten.
By the time the show rolled around I had gotten to know the new album fairly well (as it was leaked online) and was thankful to see that Nick brought the same level of intensity as he does with the slower Grinderman stuff. The next three songs, “Jubilee Street”, “Wide Lovely Eyes” and “Higgs Boson Blues”, were all from the new album. All finished with exclamation points. From there on in, it was all classics!
Where do I begin? “From Her to Eternity”, “Papa Won’t Leave You Henry”, “Red Right Hand” and “Deanna” (which saw a bit of a technical glitch where Cave couldn’t get his mike to work, but saw the crowd just cheer even harder), to name just a few. The slow, emotional “Into My Arms” just about brought me to tears, and the closing song before the encore, “Mercy Seat”, left me with shivers. It was also great to hear “Jack the Ripper”, reminiscent of Birthday Party days.
The encore saw “Tupelo” and my personal favourite, “Stagger Lee”. I just love that song. It encompasses everything I love about Nick Cave. All the southern gothic brutality, a great and terrifying story, and some of the most interesting guitar work I have ever heard. It was truly something to behold to see Nick Cave disappear and Stagger Lee take the stage.
Characteristic of Cave he spent most of the show leaning on the front few rows and picking the odd fan out to get a little serenade, leaving long-time cohort Warren Ellis to capture more intermittent attention. Jumping between guitar and viola at a moment’s notice it’s always awesome to see one of the world’s best musicians strut his stuff.
As its hard to keep up with the ever-changing line-up of the Bad Seeds I won’t get into specifics about the rest of the band, but you can rest assured that every note was played with absolute purpose and precision.
It was truly an amazing concert, and as it was the first time this young writer has ever seen the Bad Seeds (I’ve seen Grinderman a few times but I never thought I’d get a shot at seeing the Bad Seeds), all I can do is offer my neighbours an apology for the torrent of Nick Cave sing-a-longs that flowed over the fence, well into the morning hours.