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25 years on, Nick Cave
just hitting his stride

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Riviera Theatre
Chicago, IL
Sept. 29, 2008
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

Story by Tony Bonyata
Photos by Phil Bonyata

After Nick Cave's brief foray into his Grinderman project last year with fellow Bad Seeds Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos (a volatile, explosive collective that resurrected some of the scathing punk from Cave's first band The Birthday Party) it seemed doubtful that his next project with his longtime backing band The Bad Seeds would rock with the same intensity and power. Of course never one to be easily pinned down, Cave & co. proved otherwise with the recent release of their Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! full-length - a hard-hitting album that takes the near-mythical history of this band (one that melds a punk rock ethos with both Old Testament retribution and American folk tales & music) to new heights.

In support of the new record Cave & The Bad Seeds rolled into Chicago for two-sold out shows at The Riviera Theatre earlier this week, and after witnessing the second electrifying performance on Monday, it's apparent that age isn't about to slow this 50 year-old musician down. Although they didn't perform any songs from last year's Grinderman project, much of the intensity of their live performance was captured on newer numbers such as "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" and "Midnight Man," along with the psychedelic dirge of "Tupelo" from their 1985 effort The Firstborn Is Dead. This was largely due to the fact that since Grinderman, Cave has taken to playing electric guitar onstage (nevermind that since then he's also been cultivating a fine hedgerow of a moustache). When behind his stringed instrument he's developed not only his own style of playing but has already perfected his own signature (eat yer heart out, Keith) guitar histrionics - spine thrown back in a spastic jerk while kicking up his right leg.

But Cave wasn't content to just play 'rock guitarist' all night as he perched himself behind the keyboards for the black-humored ballad, "God Is In The House," as well as returning to his role as impassioned expounder as he worked the crowd into a frenzy for the dark "Red Right Hand," "Deanna" and the harrowing number "The Mercy Seat," a composition of Cave's that Johnny Cash would go onto cover for his American III: Solitary Man album back in 2000.

Perhaps the most electrifying moment of the evening, however, was during one of their newer numbers "We Call Upon The Author," where violinist Warren Ellis (who also played a Fender Mandocaster for a good portion of the evening) was on his knees pounding on a myriad of electronic pedals and knobs while wallowing and rolling on his back as if possessed. This all going on as The Seeds' ringleader incanted the lyrics "and we called upon the author to explain" in an angst-ridden, stream-of-conscious fashion.

A quarter-of-a-century after forming, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds not only sound more vital and virile then ever, but in many ways it seems as if they're just hitting their creative stride. Not bad for a bunch of old punks.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds September 29 Chicago set list:
01 Hold on to Yourself
02 Dig Lazarus Dig
03 Tupelo
04 Weeping Song
05 Red Right Hand
06 Midnight Man
07 God is in the House
08 Nobody's Baby Now
09 The Mercy seat
10 Deanna
11 Moonland
12 Get ready for love
13 We call upon the author
14 Papa Won't Leave You, Henry
15 More News From Nowhere


16 Jesus of the Moon
17 Hard on for Love
18. Stagger Lee
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

Related articles:

Grinderman - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Jul. 2007
Grinderman - Album review - Apr. 2007
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus - Album review - Jan. 2005
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Concert review - Chicago, IL - June 2003
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Nocturama - Album review - Dec. 2002
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Apr. 2002
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - NoMore Shall We Part - Album review - May 2001
Nick Cave - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Mar. 2001

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