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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan


The Hammersmith Apollo, London, May 7th 2008
What is it about punctuality, Serge? We learned, without too much difficulty, that Mr Cave and his Bad Seeds would take the stage around 8.45pm. We ate a wonderful supper in the evening sunlight (yes, that vegetarian place again, but in case you’re wondering, it’s vegetarian food for meat eaters, not your miserable “I’ve got another cold”, Guardian-reading, sandal-wearing, social-working, lentil-eating, fun-hating veggies).
And we were comfortably in our seats in time to catch the end of crooner Barry Adamson, perfectly positioned for the start. But why was the place half empty? Why did the witless continue to wander in, aimlessly looking for their seats, clutching the inevitable two or three plastic pint glasses of plastic pints of lager, until almost 9.15? Is this the i-Pod generation? The morons who don’t seem to understand that, in the same way that an album is an album, created to be heard from start to finish, a set is a set, crafted and executed in the same way? Who don’t seem to care if they disturb the concentration of others as they wander about from row to row, wrong seat to wrong seat? And who insist on going back for more and more ‘beer’, interspersed with more and more trips to the pisser, for the whole night? It can get you down, Serge – particularly when for all its violence, volume and histrionics, this eventually brilliant set deserved all the attention one could give it.
If Nick Cave was a waiter, leaning at the door of his restaurant in his dark jacket, flared purple-striped trousers, with his absurdly black mane (“I’ll dye it ‘till I die” he recently told an interviewer), and the sort of moustache you only see in photofit pictures of child molesters, then I’m sure you wouldn’t go in. Even more so if you saw the kitchen staff – led by Warren Ellis, whose beard makes him look like a cross between one of Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs and a ZZ Top cast off. He’s surrounded by a junkshop of three of his miniature guitars – more properly Fender Mandocasters, violins in cases and pedals galore. Nick Cave
Drummer Jim Sclavunos has shaved his off, but don’t let the smooth face and the pink drum kit fool you – he’s as mean with his sticks as ever. Melodious Mick Harvey is relegated to drums and keyboards for much of the evening, only occasionally picking up his guitar. Martyn Casey is menacing and motionless on bass. Conway Savage crouches over his keyboards and looks frankly as though he just been let out of somewhere serious. Thomas Wydler, white-shirted at his drums with his brushes and delicate sweeps seems out of place. This is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds post the Grinderman project, touring their new album Dig Lazarus Dig!!! It’s a stripped-back collection of songs, with all the roughness of Grinderman (even more live, as it turns out) and devoid of the painfully tender romanticism that can inform Cave’s works (‘though he does play ‘Into my arms’ as one of the final encores of the night) and ‘though the lyrics are wonderfully dark, humorous and brilliantly constructed, they contain none of the lyricism of the Boatman’s Call, or for that matter, Abattoir Blues and the Lyre of Orpheus.
Contemporary Mandocaster (not an original Fender from the 1960's)
Cave plays guitar (although he doesn’t change chords too often) , occasionally hits the keys of his organ to some effect (when it’s working) and most of all stalks the front of the stage, jumping, karate kicking and dancing (as I have said before) like Scott Walker’s ‘singer with a Spanish bum”. Leaning forward over the audience, he casts a manic shadow on the sidewalls of the theatre, sometimes menacingly like a madman, occasionally and bizarrely like comedian Max Wall (it must be that hair). And after the first three songs – ‘Night of the Lotus Eaters’, ‘Dig Lazarus dig!!!’ and oldie ‘Tupelo’, he’s prepared to lean forward and start chatting with the fans at the front. “Better start the song Nick” interrupts Harvey, as they break into ‘Today’s lesson’ – featuring a charming cast of characters including “Mr Sandman the inseminator”, whose lascivious behaviour allows Cave to shower the audience with parodic pelvic thrusts, which even, unless I’m much mistaken, bring a slight flush to the cheeks of the Photographer. It’s a well-constructed set, mixing the new album’s material artfully with older songs. There’s ‘Moonland’, and ‘Jesus of the moon’ (one of the more restrained songs) from Dig!! interspersed with ‘The ship song’ and ‘I let love in’. And while ‘Red right hand’ provides the first blasting crescendos of the night it’s surpassed in sheer mad exuberance by ‘We call upon the author’ in which Cave launches a literary-reference filled assault on the modern world “Mass poverty, third world debt, infectious diseases, global inequality and deepening socio-economic division (It does in your brain!)” – before returning to the refrain “Prolix, prolix, nothing that a pair of scissors can’t fix”. And all of this while Ellis, normally happy with his back to the audience but tonight displaying almost rock-star behaviour, is rolling on the floor on his back making the most tremendous feedback- fuelled din. Fantastic!
Nick Cave
The first encore begins with a grungy ‘Get ready for love’ (“This is destined for disaster, as all the great songs are“ says Cave), after which they give ‘The lyre of Orpheus’ a heavy dose of the Sham 69 treatment. During ‘Hard on for love’ (which with a typical incongruity features the real Lazarus and the Book of Leviticus), the stage monitors fail and as the band wait for the fault to be fixed, some of the crowd at the front quickly break into a slow hand clap. This is quickly diffused by Cave who, to applause, stands on the edge of the stage and shares his four-lettered Anglo Saxon views on the ungratefulness of London audiences with the ****s. Quite right too. Speakers fixed, the stage is bathed in blood, gore, as much fucking fucking bad language as you can fucking imagine, and yet more screeching and feedback for ‘Stagger Lee’, built of course around Casey’s imperturbable bass line and Sclavunos’ power drumming. Then it’s another break (more cigarettes at the stage door?) before ‘Into my arms’, and Cave’s take on Johnny Cash’s ‘Wanted man’.

It’s exhilarating, thrilling, tinged with danger, probably something your mother wouldn’t approve of, and all those other critical things which go to make up a great gig. And while the music is stripped back, there’s no lack of talent on display, from all of the band. It’s clever and accomplished and fiercely executed. Another Bad Seeds triumph from Mr Cave. - Nick Morgan (concert photograph by Kate)

Nick Cave's MySpace page
Conway Savage's MySpace page (excellent! -S.)

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