Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds began their British tour last night with an occasionally scrappy, but ultimately triumphant 19-song set at the Brighton Centre in Cave’s adopted hometown – a fact he addressed with repeated thanks to “the beautiful people of Brighton”.
If there was an incident during the set that best encapsulated the dual status of Cave in 2008 – part Lord of misrule; part father, Waitrose shopper and pillar of the local community – it was a strictly non-musical one. As elements of the audience began to enthusiastically fight among themselves, Cave quelled the disturbance with a piece of paternal wisdom.
“Put them in two separate rooms,” he said. “It’s what I do at home…”
Violent outbursts, followed by a period of calm – as a microcosm of what the Bad Seeds were up to for two hours, this wasn’t bad at all. Beginning their set with “Hold On To Yourself”, the band proceeded with a devastatingly heavy rendition of the album’s title track.
It was with such heavy outbursts that the band excelled. Currently playing as a seven-piece band (guitarist James Johnston is now absent from the line-up, his role as curator of noise enthusiastically taken by violinist Warren Ellis), the Bad Seeds played a set that was long on noise, continuing with “Tupelo”, through “A Weeping Song”. For the seldom-heard “Nature Boy”, meanwhile, Cave expressed fittingly visceral doubts about airing the material: “This feels destined for disaster,” he said. “I feel a certain…bubbling in my bowels…”
After airings of “Red Right Hand” and “Midnight Man”, the stage was partially vacated and the lights dimmed for a hushed “God Is In The House”. Ironically enough, this meant the quietest music in the set was being played by Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos, Cave and Martyn Casey – the line-up of Cave’s rough and ready other project, Grinderman.
The “acoustic” segment concluded with a moving “People They Ain’t No Good” (“That was the down part of the set that people in their 50s do,” Cave explained), the band returned to tumultuously heavy business, drawing the set to a close with a sequence of songs that included renditions of both “The Mercy Seat” and “Deanna” from the “Tender Prey” album, and a fantastic version of “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry.”
After a short break, the band returned for an encore that was – as seems traditional with recent Cave shows – less a structured build-up to the evening’s end, more an informal taking of requests. The terrific “Straight To You” duly began things, while the show concluded with “Stagger Lee”, a song from the band’s 1996 “Murder Ballads” album – not drawn on until this point, but whose air of noise, confusion and violence seemed a fitting encapsulation of the evening’s mood.
A mood, you would imagine, that might well suit the boxer Chris Eubank, who was seated behind UNCUT, and who had before the show been heard opining about the blood, passion and drama of the movie Raging Bull – qualities all much on display here.
We turned around to see if he was enjoying it. Apparently, he’d left a while before.
Hold On To Yourself
Dig, Lazarus, Dig
A Weeping Song
Red Right Hand
God Is In The House
People Ain’t No Good
The Mercy Seat
We Call Upon The Author To Explain
Papa Won’t Leave You Henry
Get Ready For Love
Straight To You
The Lyre Of Orpheus
Hard On For Love