Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Beacon Theatre, NYC
June 15, 2017
Much is being written that Nick Cave's current tour of Skeleton Tree may be his best yet. Seeing Mr. Cave and The Bad Seeds' performance last night at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, I would agree. Playing every song from that album except "Rings of Saturn" plus another eleven classic songs (set list here) from his catalog, it was a show that will be difficult to rival by any touring act this year or quite possibly until Mr. Cave decides to tour again. Quite remarkable given that he's a few months shy of his 60th year on Earth.
Channeling both rage and ragged beauty, he is singer of staggering charisma. Plunging himself into the open arms of adoring fans almost from the start, his rich, booming baritone never missed a note in any of songs, even those that required his most dynamic singing. Starting with three of the piano- and synth-driven tone poem ballads from his latest -- "Anthrocene," "Jesus Alone" and "Magneto" -- they would set up two of my favorite compositions from his previous album Push The Sky Away -- "Higgs Boson Blues" and "Jubilee Street." Wedged between those majestic tunes were concert catalog staples "Tupelo" (The Firstborn Is Dead, 1985) and "From Here To Eternity" (From Here To Eternity, 1984). Those four songs alone could have been encores for mere mortal acts, but they were merely warm ups for what was to come.
Moreover, during his early goth-Americana-punk classics "From Here To Eternity" and "Tupelo," the crowd was near implosion as Nick lowered his lanky, dark suit-clad body into outstretched arms happy to touch the "robes" of their music messiah. This was communion for all in attendance. And resurrection was yet to come. Riveting versions of Cave classics, the percussive "Red Right Hand" (Let Love In, 1994) with his cool but menacing Bobby Darin swagger and the Bolero-like build of "The Mercy Seat" (Tender Prey, 1988) bled into the quiet elegance of new songs "Distant Sky" (featuring a projected vocal by Danish soprano Else Torp) and "Skeleton Tree" both from his latest album.
My last Bad Seeds show at the Beacon Theatre featured both Mick Harvey (1983–2009, guitarist/instrumentalist) and Blixa Bargeld (1983 to 2003, guitar/backing vocals). I was concerned that his new lineup sans their vital contributions could muster up the requisite punk-goth fury. But British guitarist George Vjestica was up to the task as well as longtime members Thomas Wyler (drums, percussion, vocals), Martyn P. Casey (bass, vocals), Jim Sclavunos (percussion, drums, organ, melodica, vibraphone, vocals), Conway Savage (piano, organ, vocals), and Larry Mullins aka Toby Dammit (multi-keyboardist), each adding the sonic nuances required for every song. With a more pronounced role, Warren Ellis (violin, guitar, piano, keyboards) along with Cave have refined their evocative soundtrack sound for film and theater work -- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Road, Dias de Gracias, Lawless, et al. -- to inform Cave's later work, most notably on Push The Sky Away and Skeleton Tree. It's cinematic goth Americana, haunting and beautiful in simple yet nuanced arrangements that allow for a push and pull energy that washes over the listener like an acid bath leaving one stripped to the bone.
By the three-song encore that featured the cathartic sing-along "The Weeping Song" (The Good Son, 1990), his staggering slaughter-house blues-punk juggernaut "Stagger Lee" (Murder Ballads, 1996) with Cave pulling up 30 fans to the stage to the final crescendo of "Push The Sky Away" (Push The Sky Away, 2013), there was no tombs left unearthed. Cave had laid bare his soul.
I can not stress this enough: DO NOT MISS THIS TOUR or HIS NEXT!