at iTunes Live London sessions

The iTunes mini festival draws to a close tonight, and having showcased contemporary acts and stars of the future for the past 10 days, it is somewhat appropriate that the climactic show offers something a little different. Enter, stage right, the stars of the past; Spiritualized, scrabbling for their place in the musical hierarchy after falling off the radar for a while.

Jason Pierce and Doggen, side on to the crowd, sombrely trudge through new and old tunes, sporting sunglasses the whole way. The assorted industry bods all nod in approval, whilst chins are stroked and the woman to my left utters a reverentially hushed “amazing” after each song. Yet as each inward melody blurs into the next, with precisely no between-song crowd acknowledgement, the excitement levels go from low to negative. Their sound was never exactly jaunty, but these toned down, solemn incantations represent a shadow of the spaced-out weirdness we knew and loved. Welcome to dinner party shoegaze.

Thankfully, Nick Cave’s own rejection of excess has led him down a rather different path, with sobriety sending him even further into the land of weird. As he follows his ageing band onto the small stage, the bushy moustache and thinning, slicked back pate may stray dangerously close to the preposterous, but only serve to add to his outlandish appeal. In any case, multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis, with his tramp-like beard and locks, provides a distractive aesthetic sideshow.

Running through most of new album ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’, Cave casually makes mnemonic use of a lectern, sips special tea for his sore throat and demands drinks from the crowd; not surprising for a man entering his sixth decade. Yet as each tune kicks in he jolts right back into possessed madman-cum-rock star mode, lurching and gesticulating like a street preacher on cheap wizz.

The bluesy garage punk of this album bears obvious similarities to his Grinderman project, and though the riff and beats (and indeed the protagonists) are rooted in the past, it sounds fresh, rousing and above all, bloody good. Equal parts Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Bukowski, ranting reverend and Dylan at his most eccentric, two classic albums in as many years confirm Cave’s status as rock’s reborn saviour.

Photography: Olivia Hemmingway

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