Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – HMH, 4 November 2013.

We're one microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan, Designed and directed by his red right hand.

Would we be in for a performance from someone resembling a caged animal or would the evenings main performer be just exceedingly theatrical? And the answer was it would be both.

The opening act set a benchmark that would ensure the following performance from Nick and his Bad Seeds could only get better. This is not to say that this solo performer was not trying, that she was and on top of that she had one hell of a set of lungs on her. Rather in a darkened HMH with 3,000 punters looking on as she played her one instrument, “the squeeze box of death” (technical name unknown) and sang her songs it was always going to be tough. From memory it was hard to determine where one song ended and another began but I do remember the highlight being when it was over and the droning sound of the squeeze box fell silent, house lights came on and a handful of roadies took the stage to prepare for the evenings real act.

Nick and the Bad Seeds walked on stage and took their places, all six of them and got right down to business from the very first note. The sound for the evening, if I have to try and categorize it, is rock. Well alternative rock with hefty punk / post punk influence and then throw in a smattering or soft flowing ballads. And throughout the performance I found myself amazed that this is the same guy jumping through the set, who is very complex, very passionate, almost to the point of being abusive and then two songs later soft and insightful and melancholy. 

The other thing that amazes me, is that I am not quite sure how or why Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ music transcends so many cultures, or why they have so many followers across the globe? As I stood there watching this well produced show I pondered that I still believe that this is very quintessentially Australian and if you stripped back the production and lighting I could see this type of music playing in the front bar of the corner hotel in every major city in Australia, well in the 80’s and 90’s at least.

Over the course of the 2 hour plus show there was a very good mix of new songs (which the band looked clearly to be enjoying) and the back catalogue of the best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Now that as I have seen some of the new songs performed live, I expect that I will head back to Nicks newest album and enjoy it more and more, which is always an added bonus following an excellent live performance.

That being said, it had not been these new songs that I had wanted to hear pre show and I had tried not to get my hopes up too high about what might be played, rather opting for a lucky dip on the night. And there I was and three songs into the set and Nick jumped into “Do You Love Me” followed two songs later by “Red Right Hand”. The later of which included a great substituted lyric about if you want the new IPhone, he’ll get you one. So the by the fifth song of the night I had the box ticked for one of my most played tracks ever, having seen it belted out on stage at the HMH before my very eyes.

All the while, as the song were being cranked out, Nick would thunder to the front of the stage clambering and climbing over sound equipment and boxes, getting right up and personal with the people in the front rows, singing and screaming at them. At the end of each song, and occasionally during a track if Nick decided he wanted to play the piano he would toss the microphone across the stage and onto the floor with venom that I thought he really hated it. Regularly his microphone cord would get caught and he would attempt to untangle it but rather it looked like he was trying to snap the cable and if it remained stuck he would just walk away and use another one dropping this mic on the floor. At that point a startled, slightly panicked roadie would rush onto stage and try and rectify the situation. Whatever company the band is using for its mic’s and cables should start advertising the hell out of this, I mean if they can survive one Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds show then they could last a normal person a life time.

Getting a snapshot into a performer for only 2 hours is always very interesting but it clearly does not give you the whole picture, for instance when Nick is screaming at the crowd singing a song they know where they stand and what to do, but the moments when the song has finished and someone from the crowd chose to yell out a request, Nick asked the crowd to stop doing that as it was distracting, and it was that moment that you think is he being serious, is he been an “Artist” or is he just taking the piss. Now if I was a betting man I would say he was just taking the piss and throughout the course of the evening his quick wit was well on display non better that when he address the crowd who were yelling out songs with the response that he thought he had written about 260 songs and he and the band only remembered about 14, so if everyone kept yelling out songs I am sure they would finally get to the 14 songs, clearly once again he was just taking the piss.

In the mist of the show Nick took to the Piano (as he had done from time to time on other songs) and played “Into my arms” along with a few other tracks that I don’t believe would have been on the set list like “God is in the House” and they were brilliant. It was great to see that they were mixing it up and not just following the standard songs to play. It clearly kept the band on their toes with the keyboard player being told at one to keep up and at one point the guitarist scrambling to get to the correct guitar.

By the time the band reached the “Mercy Seat” they were in full flight and if that had have been the last song of the evening I don’t think anyone would have goon home disappointed. I would go so far as to say that I think this song would make it into my top ten songs seen performed live by any band, they just ripped it a bloody new one. As it ended and the crowd erupted it was hard to imagine how they could follow anything after that and then along came Stagger Lee, and it too was breath taking. Nick Screamed and swore his way through this classic being backed excellently by all the Bad Seeds. Upon reflections on my life and how my sister laughs as I sing along with songs and regularly like to slip a profanity or two into them, it is now clear that Nick Cave is the reason for this. I think you for this Nick, but I am not sure my family and friends do. 

And as the night slipped away we reached the end of the show and whilst it ended with a couple of slower tracks neither of which were The Ship Song or Where the Wild Roses Grow, I wasn’t at all disappointed. These tracks would have been great but it was the rockier ones that got my attention and after all I wasn’t there for love, I was there for rock and fucking roll. And there is a bit of me that thinks back in the day at a Nick Cave show he may have punched you in the face, and now that is less likely to happen……but you never know.

Nick gave us a leg kicking, fist punching, arms lurching, microphone throwing, dulcet tone crooning, blood curdling screaming, sermon giving, back arching, stage spitting good time!


Photos courtesy of Heineken Music Hall facebook page - thanks guys! 

1 comment:

  1. Found the Stagger Lee version he played!
    Go to 40:50