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Nick Cave & Bad Seeds? Dark, irreverent, fiery
Tuesday, 04 July 2017 09:48
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The Australian rock band Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds  — blasting away with sometimes brooding and bleak songs that, at times, escalated into an electrifying din — cast its black magic at a June 7 concert on a fired-up audience that filled all 2,300 seats in downtown Asheville’s Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.

As New Musical Express magazine said so well of the band’s critically acclaimed 2008 album, “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!” (inspired by the biblical story of the resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany by Jesus Christ), it features the sound of a “gothic psycho-sexual apocalypse” featuring punk and garage rock-inspired arrangements. That description certainly would apply to its repertoire at its Asheville show. 

The one-set, 100-minute concert ended with the audience cheering for an encore — and the band leaving the stage.

After five minutes of the crowd’s cheers and demands for more music, the Bad Seeds returned to the stage for an extended series of encore songs that lasted for about 30 minutes. Before launching into his first extra song, Cave teased the crowd, saying, “I’m sorry! I am really sorry! You’re only supposed to see the show once!”

The four-song encore began with “Weeping Song,” followed by the band’s cover of Lloyd Price’s 1959 No. 1 hit “Stagger Lee,” which, arguably, triggered the biggest audience response of the night.

Another notable encore number was “Push the Sky Away,” during which Cave urged the audience members to “just keep on pushing,” apparently meaning that they need to stay the course through these challenging times.

After the final encore song, the group left the stage for good, leaving the crowd on its feet, shouting for more songs.

Most of the adoring (dare I say fanatical?) audience — mainly comprised of 20- and 30-somethings, but with a sizable contingent of older fans, remained standing for the charismatic Cave, who probably deserves more kudos for his showmanship and connective capability with his audience than for his vocals. 

Cave, the group’s lead singer and front-man — clad in a black suit and a white shirt — emulated, at various times, a crazed televangelist, an undertaker and even a vampire. Cave invoked in his lyrics references to Jesus, Satan, Lucifer and the devil, in his existential wailings.

His mostly dark, gloomy songs were accentuated throughout the concert by a wispy fog (emitted from a fog machine), along with a highly effective light show.

Yet, as many of his seemingly empathetic fans would know, at least soome of Cave’s rather often-dirge-like music likely is channeling his angst from the 2015 death of his teenage son Arthur.

The June 7 concert constituted the second appearance for the Bad Seeds in Asheville. The band played at The Orange Peel on Biltmore Avenue about four years ago.

As the pre-show music cranked up, dozens of audience members from all over the auditorium  crowded into the area in front of the stage.

Clad in trim black suits, the band took the stage, led by multi-instrumentalist and composer Warren Ellis, noted for his long beard. Cave then entered, took a seat center-stage and launched into “Antrocene” from 2016’s album, “Skeleton Tree.” The band’s Asheville setlist also included seven other tracks from the album, which is its latest. 

Regarding the “Skeleton Tree” album, Stuart Berman wrote in a review of it on website

“People die in Nick Cave songs. They get wiped out in floods, zapped in electric chairs, and mowed down en masse in saloon shoot-outs. For Cave, death serves as both a dramatic and rhetorical device — it’s great theater, but it’s also swift justice for those who have done wrong, be it in the eyes of a lover or the Lord. As I once heard him quip in concert: ‘This next one’s a morality tale… they’re all morality tales, really. It’s what I do.’”

What’s more, Berman added that following the tragic death of Arthur, who fell off a cliff to his death, “This is a record that exists in the headspace and guts of someone who’s endured an unspeakable, inconsolable trauma. And though the songs are not explicitly about Arthur they are uncannily about coming to terms with loss and the realization that things will never be the same again.”

Along with Cave, Ellis played a bit of a co-frontman role in the show, as he easily shifted from guitar to piano to violin, and showed lively choreographic flair that included some fancy footwork that even featured karate kicks to the air.

As Cave moved from one side of the front-stage to the other, he incessantly reached out and touched hands with the crowd who remained jammed into the area in front of the stage throughout the show.

Also, many of those in the regular seating area stood, swaying to the music, and with one hand outstretched toward Cave — and in some cases, with both hands outstretched, as if to a messiah. 

Also, more than a few times, Cave uttered the “F-bomb,” reliably triggering cheers — and easy laughs — from his rabid fans. One could only guess that he had nothing profound to say, beyond what he expressed in his music.

“On the song “Distant Sky,” sadly, Danish soprano Else Torp is only present as a giant projection, with Cave and his group performing along with her recorded vocals.

Another songs was “Can You Feel the Beat of My Heart,” as Cave dashed around the stage, leaning over and letting fans place their hands on his heart.

The band was formed in Melbourne in 1983 by Cave, multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey and guitarist Blixa Bargeld.

Besides Cave and Ellis, the band includes bassist Martyn P. Casey and keyboardist Conway Savage (all four from Australia), keyboard/percussionist Barry Adamson and guitarist George Vjestica (both from the United Kingdom), and drummers Thomas Wydler (Switzerland) and Jim Sclavunos (United States).

The band, which has released 16 studio albums and completed numerous international tours, is considered “one of the most original and celebrated bands of the post-punk and alternative rock eras in the ‘80s and onward,” Mark Deming wrote in his book, “Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Biography.”

Cave and his band have their strengths, but from what this reviewer heard and saw at the show, their hype exceeds their talent.



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