Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Kirstie Shanley
Photos: Kirstie Shanley

Over the past four decades Nick Cave has risen from the depths of the Australian underground of punk and rock to create some of the most epic songs ever written.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

City: Chicago, IL
Venue: Riviera Theater
Date: 2008-09-28

Over the past four decades Nick Cave has risen from the depths of the Australian underground of punk and rock to create some of the most epic songs ever written. Beginning with the darkly challenging The Birthday Party, to his current work with the Bad Seeds, Cave has consistently produced brilliantly compelling albums. He has also kept good company, collaborating with many other amazing musicians ranging from Shane MacGowan to Pulp to Marianne Faithful. Guest female vocalists such has PJ Harvey and Kylie Minogue joined him on 1996’s Murder Ballads, and Johnny Cash even covered one of his most famous songs, “The Mercy Seat” back in 2000, adding to Cave’s legendary status. So it’s perhaps no surprise that his two shows at Chicago’s 2,300-person capacity Riviera Theater were sellouts. Putting his extensive catalog of studio albums aside (his recordings with the Bad Seeds alone totals 14), Cave has also turned into a true renaissance man, dipping his hand into literature and film. As well as writing the screenplay and composing the score (alongside Bad Seed, Warren Ellis) to the 2005 drama The Proposition -- a gritty Western set in the Australian outback -- Cave also made an appearance, both cinematically and musically, in the The Assassination Of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. With his 1989 novel And the Ass Saw the Angel, a dense and chaotic tale that highlights the inner workings of Cave’s true genius, he proved to be an adept author of the written word outside of his verbose lyrics. Musically, he has branched out as well. In addition to his current work with the Bad Seeds, Cave recently invested his energies into a side project entitled Grinderman. That group’s self-titled 2007 release was heavily influenced by garage and blues-y rock, adding an increased edginess to his idiosyncratic sound. Needless to say, with a resume this stacked, Nick Cave has the commanding stage presence one would expect from a man of his caliber. He can be as provocative as he is tender. Stalking the tip of the stage countless times, Cave reached out to an audience who had no doubt waited countless hours to secure such a prime spot. Not surprisingly, the set list placed an emphasis on his most recent release Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!. In some ways the album encompasses a higher level of aggression than his previous recordings, a fact that seems fitting given the recent Grinderman release. This musical edge served to heighten the intensity Cave embraced on stage. Even songs that have been traditionally soft and gentle, such as “The Weeping Song”, came off as faster, louder, and with an increased sense of rawness. While new songs formed the backbone of the set, it wasn’t long before Cave started pulling from his extensive and exhaustive catalogue. “Deanna”, “Red Right Hand”, “The Weeping Song”, and “The Mercy Seat”, all made appearances as Cave created a tremendous sense of tension that built throughout the set. This friction came to a head during “The Mercy Seat” and continued into the incredible encore that included “Get Ready for Love” and “Stagger Lee”. At times, the juxtaposition between the tender moments and Cave’s dynamic anguish was jarring, especially when “Into My Arms” -- with minimal changes to the original recording -- was integrated into the rest of the set. In comparison, after touching on the human element with grace, Cave acted almost possessed during “Stagger Lee”, “We Call Upon the Author”, and “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry”. He paced the stage, pointed at the audience, and gestured as only a brilliant madman can. As one might imagine, the Bad Seeds, Cave’s industrious backing band, include some of the most talented men in music. Their ability to bring Cave’s complex songwriting to fruition is a true testament to their musical abilities. Multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis, in particular, is definitely at the forefront of the Bad Seeds (he also worked with Cave on Grinderman and his film soundtracks). Cave interacted with Ellis throughout the set, coming close to him many times as he heightened the backing band’s presence. Throughout his career, Cave has demonstrated an incredible ability to tell a story with lyrics that allow the listener to visualize a scene so vividly. At the same time, he uses such a wide range of references from mythology and religion that add tremendously to his lyrical versatility. And while this performance was filled with many lyrical rewards and musical gems, the most awe inspiring sense arose from witnessing the man himself -- a man whose wild imagination, sense of knowledge and wit, and utter talent has helped add true significance and meaning to the canon of music for over thirty years.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.