Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at Hammersmith Apollo
St Jude proves to be no match for the mighty Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds...
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The last time we saw Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds was for their second-to-headline set at this year's Glastonbury. Cave had one foot atop the shoulder of a hapless Mumford and Sons fan, screaming “I’m that bad motherfucker called Stagger Lee” in the terrified face of another. It was a beautiful reminder that, despite the mainstream flash-in-the-pans who've come and gone, The Bad Seeds have always been there with venom and bile, ready to strike when you least expect them.
But during their three-night run at Hammersmith Apollo this week, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds aren't playing in front of misguided Radio 1 listeners devoid of personality, like their set before Mumford. They're among friends, fans and supporters of their phenomenal 30-year-career. Not only that, but they're fresh off the back of their 15th and possibly finest work to date; this year's Push The Sky Away.
The thing about The Bad Seeds is that every note of every bar from every instrument has scratched and clawed its way into being, fighting for its right to exist. Whether it’s the musically-maniacal Warren Ellis, hacking at his violin like a mad scientist at a corpse, Conway Savage and Barry Adamsom with their hauntingly seductive organ melodies, or drummer Jim Scalvunos, who, for our money, is one of the best percussionists in the business, seamlessly transitioning from a delicate snare to a snarling thunder from deep within the belly of a beast.
“One day you’re going to wake up and this song is going to be a fucking classic,” Nick Cave tells us from behind his piano, introducing Mermaids, one of the highlights from the new album. And he’s probably right. But there’s a foreboding aggression in the new material tonight, contrasted with its hushed understatement on record. Jubilee Street, for examples, sheds its delicate Dramamine-induced fuzz and resonates through the Apollo, electrified, reborn and brought to life, as if it’s the last song The Bad Seeds will ever play.
But it’s not just about the new material. The aforementioned Stagger Lee, atheist piano-led love ballad Into My Arms and slithering cult-classic Red Right Hand, as basterdised by the Arctic Monkeys, are present and correct with all their murderous intent. And Nick Cave, sings them with a purpose that’s far-too-often missing in today’s musicians.
Cutting a dominating yet slender figure, we’re willing to bet that Cave will go down as one of the very best front men of modern times, orchestrating The Bad Seeds like a ringleader of the damned. Donning a sharply-cut suit, he’s the Sinatra for lost souls, his words delivered with a demonic growl, as if Cave himself is afraid of carnage and destruction they could leave in their wake.
It's somewhat ironic that Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' latest record is titled Push The Sky Away. You see, the newspaper headlines will try and kid you that St Jude was the biggest storm the country had seen in 26-years. But a slight breeze and a bit of drizzle cannot compare to the very power Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have harnessed consistently now for the last three decades. And judging by their Hammersmith gigs, the winds don’t show any sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Words: Ryan Butcher (@RyanJohnButcher)
Picture: Steve Gullick