Saturday, 2 November 2013

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Manchester Apollo 30/10/13

I've talked before about my admiration for +Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Whether it's the tender balladry of The Boatman's Call and The Good Son or the swaggering, brutal rock of Dig Lazarus, Dig!!! or Henry's Dream, Cave has a lyrical gift and a unique delivery that puts him up there with some of the best songwriters of the past thirty years.
Off the back of this year's excellent Push The Sky Away album, his first with The Bad Seeds in five years, and an excellent Glastonbury set, I was seriously looking forward to seeing the band live. I was not disappointed.

Unfortunately I can't say the same for support act Shilpa Ray. Picture if Lana Del Ray found an accordion and decided she was going to try and ape every ballad Cave ever wrote. It was a very trying act that tested the patience of the crowd and wore a little thin.

Thankfully, with no band behind her, Shilpa packed up relatively quickly and the wait for The Bad Seeds to start the show was a short one. Right from the opener, the dark, subtly menacing "We No Who U R", Cave was an absolute force of nature. Apparently the man is not only allergic to staying still but also to staying on the stage, as he spent most of the show stood over the barricades in front of the front row.

This was the best picture I could get all night
The pace then picked up midway through "Jubilee Street", as the elegant string arrangements and bassline transformed into a ramshackle Pogues-esque fiesta ("I'm transforming, I'm vibrating, I'm glowing, LOOK AT ME NOW!") just as it did at Glastonbury. This then launched the band into a flurry of Bad Seeds classics including "Tupelo", "Red Right Hand" and "Papa Won't Leave You, Henry".

I've heard some concern that without guitarist Mick Harvey, who's departure arguable influenced the stripped back, stark nature of Push The Sky Away, Cave & the Bad Seeds' music would lose its bite, but their performance on this night (appropriately enough, on the eve of Halloween) is yet another example that that simply isn't the case. Particularly the rhythm section of the band really shines, Thomas Wydler's drums often filling the building and leaving you with the impression that you've just been shot in the chest. Warren Ellis occasionally adds extra guitar to proceedings as well, including "Mermaids", which he now augments with a new solo near its climax.

Around midway through the set, in what was a personal highlight, Cave managed to glue himself to the piano for long enough to perform a mini-set of his gentler songs including "Into My Arms", "God Is In The House" (a delightful surprise) and "People Ain't No Good".

It wasn't long before Nick (I hope I'm allowed to call him Nick!) returned to the sanctuary of the audience for "Higgs Boson Blues", arguably the highlight of Push The Sky Away. In a slick bit of sequencing it was followed by "Hiding All Away" which perfectly complemented the preceding number in my opinion.

Before I close, though, it would be remiss of me not to mention the band's performance of "Stagger Lee". While it may be a bit clichéd to say it was the highlight of the set, there's just simply no denying the fact that that's what it was! While Cave didn't hypnotise anyone as he appeared to at Glastonbury (although that didn't stop one audience member getting on a friend's shoulders early on in the set to try and recreate that moment), he still delivered a monstrous performance.
His ultra-intense crowd interaction as always made the song memorable. Inviting one audience member to touch his chest, he asked "Can you feel my heart beat?" in a recall to "Higgs Boson Blues". But the best bit was the improv he did whilst getting pissed off at people shoving their phones in his face. "PUT THE FUCKING PHONE AWAY!" he screamed, later changing the lyrics to "Here come the devil... with an iPhone in his hand!"
He eventually changed his tune though. "TAKE MY FUCKIN' PICTURE!" he bellowed, before pulling one of the most brilliantly ridiculous poses you'll ever see from him.

Closing with an encore including more crowd favourites ("Deanna", "Jack The Ripper") and new song "Just Give Us A Kiss", I was eventually able to pick my jaw up from the floor and leave the theatre, awe-struck and chuffed to bits to have caught a sublime show. Safe to say, The Bad Seeds are a must see act, so if they come to a town near you, I'd advise doing all you can to go see them.


  1. We No Who U R
  2. Jubilee Street
  3. Tupelo
  4. Red Right Hand
  5. Papa Won't Leave You, Henry
  6. Mermaids
  7. From Her to Eternity
  8. West Country Girl
  9. God Is in the House
  10. People Ain't No Good
  11. Into My Arms
  12. Higgs Boson Blues
  13. Hiding All Away
  14. The Mercy Seat
  15. Stagger Lee
  16. Push the Sky Away
  1. We Real Cool
  2. Jack the Ripper
  3. Deanna
  4. Give Us a Kiss