Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Live, Carling Academy Glasgow, Sunday 4th May 2008

Nick Cave

I think Nick Cave finishes a whisker below Tom Waits in my personal pantheon of musical heroes. I think. It’s bloody close.

If I were to really have to come down on one side of that argument or another I think it might end up being on the basis that I think Cave has taken marginally more missteps over the course of his career, but then that’s hardly a cut-and-dried assertion. I don’t know.

One difference is that for all the prospect of a chat and a cuppa with Tom Waits would terrify me, I would really rather avoid the same with Mr. Cave. For all that for the most part I worship his artistic output, personally he seems like a right tosser; pretentious, vain, and quite incredibly full of himself. I’m not saying that this is how he is as a person exactly, but it is very much how he comes across to me, and I can’t imagine much good would come of meeting the man – a few too many images to be destroyed that I would prefer to keep intact thank you.

Of course, without that impossibly grandiose attitude his music would never be so good and his live show would be a shadow of its strutting, messianic self, so in wishing it away you’d be stripping the emperor of his clothes. As it is, you just have to accept it as a fundamental part of the pantomime, sit back and enjoy. And if you can do that, then the Bad Seeds’ live show is just scorching. Warren Ellis leaps about at the front like a demented hobo, torturing his violin in a manner that would thin the lips of a classical purist at fifty paces.

Musically, I am reminded of two things: firstly, what a genius this man is. The set list is peppered with old classics like Tupelo and Papa Won’t Leave You Henry, but for the most part songs are drawn from his most recent album Dig, Lazarus Dig. This is the second thing of which I am reminded: a lot of this album really isn’t very good. There are exceptions – Night of the Lotus Eaters, We Call Upon the Author and Dig, Lazarus Dig are just brilliant – but a lot of the others just don’t cut the mustard, especially when surrounded by his older material.

It works very well as a set list though, and this is one of tightest groups you will ever see play live, odd assortment of mad, lecherous old bastards though they may be. And what a brilliant, driven, raging performance for a group of duffers in their 50s. The Rolling Stones had long since given up by this point.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – I Let Love In
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – We Call Upon the Author
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Tupelo

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