Mr Cave is touring at the moment; the current Bad Seeds incarnation is a six-piece notably including Warren Ellis; (No, not that Warren). I don’t go to a lot of concerts; a few each year. I caught this tour Tuesday and it was the most involving, intense music I’ve experienced in years. If they’re coming near, you should go see them. Assuming you don’t mind really loud really dark music about serious things: fear and love and murder and sex and God.

The sky outside the Orpheum

An establishing shot, taken on the concert hall’s balcony.
It’s dark, just like the music.

At a Bad Seeds show, you hear wonderful songs; the set list featured two from my fave Cave, 1994’s Let Love In; Red Right Hand made my blood run cold. I also own and recommend The Boatman’s Call and White Lunar, which is just Nick and Warren doing mostly very quiet very beautiful ambient stuff. I hadn’t heard, but really liked, the title track from last year’s Push the Sky Away.

There were lots more powerful tunes: I particularly liked Tupelo and Into My Arms. And then there was Nick’s take on Stagger Lee. There’s a lot of dark shit at a Cave concert, but this was seriously evil. It’s part of our cultural consensus that rock performances can go places you just can’t in civilized discourse, but I wasn’t quite ready for all the enhanced essence of bad murdering motherfucker this one brought to bear.

You also get a hell of a performance. Nick’s a fine singer with a huge dark flexible flavorful voice; but he has a problem, which is he’s not much of a dancer. He compensated Tuesday by spending most of the set down in the audience, usually in the front row leaning against people’s hands, sometimes deeper; the polite Canadian crowd carefully passed the mike cable along over their heads.

Nick Cave performs

My poor little Nexus 5 was pushed way past its design parameters but this does sort of tell the story.

The rest of the band mostly just stands there except for Warren Ellis, who offers flourishes in a vaguely Ian-Anderson flavor.

The performance is super-intense visually and musically and emotionally; dramatic dynamics, subtle mood shifts, and thunderous guitar-driven rock & roll. God, I love it; Rock guitars are the machineries of joy.

And here’s something unusual: The sound was exquisite. This is in Vancouver’s Odeon, where our Symphony plays. I’ve heard lots of electric music there and nobody else has come close to this level of clarity and dynamic range and layered multi-instrumental textures; all without sacrificing the raw rock volume you need when Nick’s down at the front of the stage, howling “I ain’t down here for your body, I ain’t down here for your love, I don’t want your love or money, I’m down here for your soul” over the guitars’ roar.

I thought the six-piece band might have been better as a five-piece, there was a guy doubling drums and keyboards who was superfluous, and got in the way of Warren’s instruments and Nick’s piano a bit. But still, what a show.

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July 02, 2014
· Arts (11 fragments)
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