Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

SXSW showcase reviews

Live Shots
by Shelley Hiam

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Stubb's, Wednesday, March 13

Nick Cave strode onstage clad in black, promised darkness by the end of the first song, and delivered a searing and emphatic nine-song set to a jam-packed amphitheatre. His voice in fine timbre and his supporting players fully engaged, the 55-year-old punk launched things with the surreal "Higgs Boson Blues" off new album Push the Sky Away. Cave continued to trust the audience to keep their antennae tuned for the new with "Jubilee Street," a vicious nightmare ragtime that finds a faceless narrator visiting whores and discovering his name on every page of some hooker's little black book. "They ought to practice what they preach on Jubilee Street," the singer goaded, thrusting his hips and keeping in nearly constant motion throughout his 85 minutes onstage. With six players representing a new configuration of the Bad Seeds – including 57-year-old Aussie punk pioneer Ed Kuepper of the Saints, and longtime collaborators guitarist Barry Adamson and fiddle player Warren Ellis – Cave also dug deep into his catalog. He played a surging "Red Right Hand," then "The Mercy Seat," popularized by that other man in black, Johnny Cash, on his American Recordings ("An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, and anyway I told the truth, and I'm not afraid to die.") Cave closed with the title song from Push the Sky Away, rolling up the roadshow too soon for the faithful. Still able to summon cosmic weirdness and great empathy, when Cave cried out on that final number, "Some people say it's only rock & roll, oh but it gets you down in your soul," no one could have dared argue.

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