I’ve been chomping at the bit for this show for a couple months now. Actually, scratch that, a couple years, as somehow I missed Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Martyn P. Casey and Jim Sclavunos when they toured for the original Grinderman album in aught-seven. And I’ve never seen the Bad Seeds live, so this was a much-anticipated show for me.
I was not disappointed.
First, unfortunately we only caught the tail end of opener Armen Ra’s set. If you’re not familiar with Ra, as I was not before the show, he is a man that wear’s a rather nice suit and plays a mean Theremin.
Armen Ra’s site: http://armenra.com/
If you’re not familiar with what a Theremin is, find and watch this: Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey, as it is a fascinating documentary about Leon Theremin, the instrument’s creator.
Anyway, onto Mr. Cave…
The lights went out promptly at 10Pm and Cave and crew took the stage. After an initial and polite hello the opening meanderings of the lead track, ‘Mickey Mouse and The Goodbye Man‘ from the new album began skittering in as the gents took their places. The track is a slow build, not nearly as thrust full of the kind of fuzzed out tension-building 2007 eponymous album’s opener ‘Get It On‘ is, but brother when that chorus kicked you best believe it was madness. Casey and Sclavunos remained rock-steady but Cave and Ellis went nuts. These two aging icons were jump-kicking into changes on their instruments and flailing around almost like this was a return to Birthday Party-like energies. It was, in a word, madness. Delightful, delightful madness.
From here they stayed on course with the new album’s tracks and performed Worm Tamer, then unexpectedly into the aforementioned ‘Get It On’. Here we began to get a sense of how things were going to roll out for the evening. Ellis began shifting from instrument to instrument (I’m not even sure all of what he was playing/manipulating, but something, probably some kind of software-based Mellotron, if such a thing exists, or sampler, was providing those creepy backing tracks heard on much of the album), in this case grabbing a clutch of Maracas and turning his back to the crowd, shaking his derriere like a carefree women in a mirrored nightclub. The intensity level once again increased and remained high as the band acclimated to the performance, Ellis continuing to revel in the tempos like a ritual-drunk highland wizard, his wonderfully Pict-ish visage adding to the idea that he is, perhaps more than even Mick Harvey ever was, Nick Cave’s Merlyn, while Cave himself began to settle more into the idea of tailoring his performance for the night, extending songs with repetition and banter, emphasizing refrains in new and outlandishly mad ways, at one point repeatedly imploring one particular chap up front to ‘Don’t do that on the carpet’ well past the song from whence the line originally came.
One thing I found so impressive about Grinderman, which is apparent on the albums but even more so live, is that there seem to be two separate operating platforms working in unison to complete the whole of the group. On one platform are Sclavurnos and Casey, tried and true rhythm section veterans who are precise and sturdy enough to anchor the second platform, which is the at-times almost vitriolic chaos that Cave and Ellis create within the context of each song. The track ‘Kitchenette‘ in particular was a perfect example of why my wife, who is a fan, often says Nick Cave “makes her nervous” – the repeated implorings at almost frantic volume and delivery for the subject(s) of the song to “Put some fucking shoes on their (childrens’) feet” and “It’s getting hard to relax” came to a boil that held it’s breathe for longer than most performers could maintain, to the point that both my wife and I agreed it felt as though we were watching Mr. Cave have a complete nervous breakdown. After the song however he straightened his nice open-chested dress shirt and regained his composure, only to once again devolve at points, until the near primal-exposition during unexpected show closer ‘Grinderman‘ which live took on an almost frightening aura of psychedelic reverberation.
And then it was done. Thank you Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn P. Casey. Amen.
Thanks to the guy that posted this.