Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Centre, Brighton - 22/11/08

27 Nov 2008

"this is the first time cave has ever brought the bad seeds to his adopted home of brighton. he has never welcomed the idea, describing it as "a 'don't crap where you eat' kind of thing"... but tonight, the band build to such a fury and intensity that it blows through the audience like a nuclear wind, a searing sound, screaming through us, stripping us to the bone... what the bad seeds made me do tonight is reevaluate just how powerful i ever thought a live band could be."

Nick Cave bowls out onto the stage of the Brighton Centre, resplendent in a stylish, slim-fitting, three piece suit; open collar, hair slicked, and when standing upright, he seems around ten feet tall. The Bad Seeds are already laying down the late-night shuffle as he walks out for 'Hold On To Yourself', from their Mojo-award-winning, Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! album, which drifts around like the calm before the storm.

Tonight sees Cave breaking his own rule. This is the first time he has ever brought his band, The Bad Seeds, to his adopted home of Brighton. He has never welcomed the idea, describing it as "a 'don't crap where you eat' kind of thing". But after recently playing in nearby Hove with his side project, Grinderman, to a jubilant crowd, the decision was finally made to bring The Seeds to the place where he eats.

His involvement with Grinderman has broken another long-term habit for Cave. It is his latest writing with the band that has seen him picking up the guitar after many years of writing at a piano stool. This has led to him playing the guitar on stage with The Bad Seeds too. He has spoken of an interest to pull himself into the band more, as opposed to leading it from the front of the stage. More than once, Cave checks with the boys as to the key of a song, and at one point he asks for a new telecaster rather than dealing with the prospect of having to tune the one he has.

Cave looks focused and mean. After the first number, he greets the crowd courteously and sets about the sheet music on the spot-lit stand in front of him like some ancient flamboyant composer, peeling off pages and tossing them into the air as he finds his place. "Are you ready?" he shouts, and as the paper comes down around him like ticker tape, he counts the band off into a shockingly heavy reading of the track 'Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!' Cave is on guitar and Warren Ellis' violin-baiting sounds like he's butchering a pig. The band is like a sonic boom and I wonder how many people here expected this level of ferocity.

From here on in, the train doesn't stop. 'Tupelo' comes swirling and howling like a punch in the gut. Cave is on his knees like King Lear in the storm, wailing at the assembly; "Carry the burden of Tupelo! You will reap just what you sow!" Before a rare airing of Nature Boy, from 2004's masterful, Abattoir Blues, Cave voices his unease. "I have a bubbling in my bowels that this will end in disaster" he moans. It is clear these songs demand a supreme level of musicianship, but this line up of The Seeds delivers on every level. Great attention is paid to detail; the band boasts two drummers who alternate between holding the groove and playing any number of percussive instruments. During the show, Ellis swaps between his heavily distorted violin, a four-stringed mandocaster (fender mandolin), a flute, and various shakers. It shows that this band is rich in multi-instrumentalists, and although the primal energy involved here may seem out of control at times, don't be fooled; this is finely orchestrated stuff.

There seems to be more than a just a music show here tonight- this is all working at another level: a level that finds The Seeds blowing like a hurricane and Nick Cave coming on like the mean mother**ker, Mr Stagger Lee, himself. There are times in the show, such as during, 'We Call Upon The Author', when Cave becomes less like a singer in a band and more like a vengeful soothsayer; issuing accusations and demanding answers. He points with his fingers and throws himself at the sky, while all along Warren Ellis is on the floor of the stage, engaged in a bitter brawl with his guitar; thrashing around like a fish getting clubbed on a pier. Conway Savage punches his imaginary altar and prostrates himself behind his keyboard in the breaks, crucified; with his arms outstretched he wails. No, there is more than simply a band at work here. This is something else.

The tall man wants accountability. He wants people to stand up. The Bad Seeds tear into song after unrelenting song, with a power like the wind and the waves. Cave is in the eye of the storm, and like mad Doctor Frankenstein, he is battling to control the lightning.

Cave, eventually, takes up his place behind Savage's organ for beautifully intimate readings of 'God Is In The House' and 'People Ain't No Good'. Cave explains the short spell of calm as "the down part of the set that people in their 50s do." The pretty interlude is soon passed, however, and ball-breaking business resumes: "To continue the theme of general devastation," Cave continues, "this is about a guy going to the electric chair." 'The Mercy Seat' builds to a blistering climax and amid the maelstrom stands the tall, suited man, cracking his microphone cable like a whip, howling. A careless crack too many sees his cable come down to find his music stand, propelling pages of sheet music into the air. Technicians swarm around his feet struggling to maintain some sort of order among the chaos of it all. Cave's flow is unbroken though, as he steams on, channeling preachers and prophets and hoodoo men from a time that would have seen the tall man burnt at the stake as a witch.

On the final straight, Cave continues to pull out the big guns, firing off 'Deanna', 'Papa Won't Leave You Henry' and closing the show with 'Get Ready For Love'. The encore sees Cave taking requests: "one at a time please", delivering a brilliantly overblown operatic ending to 'The Lyre Of Orpheus', before introducing 'Hard On For Love' as "a mid period Cave classic". The last song of the evening, 'Stagger Lee', sees a crescendo that should come with a warning; the band build to such a furious intensity that it is blowing through the audience like a nuclear wind, a searing sound, screaming through us, stripping us to the bone; white hot. This may sound like an exaggeration: and in strict terms, it is: but what the Bad Seeds made me do tonight is to very simply reevaluate just how powerful I ever thought a live band could be.

The tall man is due to release his second novel, The Death Of Bunny Monro in September of next year, plus he is writing a film score for a big-screen adaptation of Cormac Mcarthy's The Road. He is also working on Grindermans' sophomore long-player and finding time to play songs out. What a busy old devil - anyone would think he has a hell-hound on his trail...

SETLIST: Hold On To Yourself / Dig, Lazarus, Dig / Tupelo / The Weeping Song / Nature Boy / Red Right Hand / Midnight Man / God Is In The House / People Ain't No Good / Moonland / The Mercy Seat / Deanna / We Call Upon The Author / Papa Won't Leave You Henry / Get Ready For Love / Straight To You / The Lyre Of Orpheus / Hard On For Love / Stagger Lee

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