For those of us who have never had to deal with their own child’s death, it’s impossible to consider nevermind imagine what Nick Cave has gone through or had to do in order to ‘keep on keeping on’ since losing his own son two years ago. In the short time that has passed, somehow, Cave has managed to produce another record with his band of Bad Seeds - ‘Skeleton Tree’, a collection of poetry-like meditations and cathartic sobering ballads, all of which are up there with his best work.
He's also back on the road for a short UK arena tour and tonight tested said album against the vast space and acoustics of Glasgow's SSE Hydro. Unsurprisingly, much of tonight's setlist would draw from the Bad Seed’s latest record, however when played live took on an almost entirely new form. 'Jesus Alone' sounded transformed from what appears on record, while early gig highlight 'Magneto'also took on another sorrowful and powerful dimension, almost unrecognizable until we hear Cave repeatedly utter the familiar words of "one more time with feeling..." at the crowd.
Throughout the gig Cave darted from one side of the stage to the other, pointing, rousing and at times literally getting into the faces of the audience members closest to the stage. At one point he got more than he had expected when midway through ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ he stopped and cried, “This is fucking sexual harassment in the workplace”.
Extended, almost angry renditions of early Bad Seed classics like 'Tupelo', 'The Mercy Seat' and ‘Red Right Hand’ did their job in igniting the crowd following the sombre tone of the slower more heartfelt songs, however they were soon followed by more of the band’s more poignant tunes; first with a full band version of ‘The Ship Song’, and then with ‘Into My Arms’, which Cave rightly chose to perform solo, and not for the first time in a complex and moving set had the audience transfixed on the sheer genius and artistry we were witnessing.
It’s a testament to the diversity and range of the Bad Seeds that in one setlist they can play a song the nature of ‘Distant Sky’- a gentle, dream like sentimental duet with a Danish Soprano (not present at the gig, for what it's worth) - and moments later burst their hallmark X-rated opus ‘Stagger Lee’, the tale of tale of a ‘bad motherfucker’ who gets dumped, kills a barman and eventually takes down the Devil.
By the time we got to the latter, Cave had again immersed himself in the crowd, and as in recent shows, ended up bringing a small proportion of them back up on to the stage to experience the final moments of the show from his own point of view, bringing the curtain down on an astounding gig of mixed emotions.
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Words: Ray Jackson
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