Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds @ The Sidney Myer Music Bowl
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – need we give a further introduction? In their thirtieth year, the wonderfully dark rockers stand on the mantelpiece with middle fingers raised as our filthiest national icons.
After the departure of lead guitarist Mick Harvey in 2006, the salacious band slipped into hiatus during which most members reformed in a side-project, Grinderman. This band was brilliantly grotty in its own right: their ‘No Pussy Blues’ kicked The Rolling Stone’s ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ off the lust anthem pedestal with a steel-capped boot. But when Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds announced a new album, the ARIA chart topping Push The Sky Away, and a complementary national tour, our dirty souls knew that a long-awaited feast was coming.
Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl was brimming with hungry fans on Saturday night and ticketless others spilled out onto the neighbouring Royal Botanical Gardens lawns. The crowd was a mixed bag made of baby boomers, barely legals, and many more in between.
Former Screaming Trees front man Mark Lanegan served the entrée. He was a man of simplicity, wasting no time with banter, coloured clothing or superfluous noise. With only his husky voice backed by David Rosser’s guitar, he still made a mighty sound. As the sky stained pink, Lanegan sang ‘Don’t Forget Me’ and, whilst we were ready for main course, we’d happily comply.
As the lights dimmed, we felt like jittery schoolgirls about to go on a hot date. To the back of the stage sat the string section of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and a choir made up of very lucky kids from Gardenvale Primary School. We were in for a treat.
The main men, led by Nick Cave, soon swaggered on stage, old, balding and a little feral. But with black suits and unflinching confidence, they absolutely reeked of charisma.
In characteristic defiance to the general manners of the music scene, they launched into their latest album Push The Sky Away denying the crowd their old favourites until they had played each new song through. We didn’t mind one bit. The new stuff was mainly sultry ballads, excepting ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ which Cave adequately described as “long, difficult and virile.” The single ‘Jubilee Street’ was hauntingly beautiful, particularly with the children’s voices helping to tell the prostitute’s tale.
But when Cave finally bellowed in his legendary, deep voice: ‘now for some other stuff’, the fun really began. As Conway Savage burst into ‘From Her To Eternity’ with a chiming piano, the seated patrons promptly jumped to their feet. Violinist/flautist/guitarist/all-round-musical-genius Warren Ellis conducted the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with incredible likeness to the Wicked Witch of the West’s mad control of her pretties. With arms flailing, high kicks and his Filch-like scraggly appearance, he had perfect control over his minions and the crowd’s gaze. We feel sorry for the MSO; after being in Ellis’ hands (and arms and legs) they will struggle to stay awake under conductors from hereon.
The banquet kept coming, with old classics ‘Red Right Hand’ and ‘Sail Your Ships Around Me’ definite favourites. The “kiddies,” as Cave persistently called them, poignantly belted out the titled chorus of ‘Oh! Children’ and sparked chills all over.
Eventually, Cave declared kiddie bedtime, and the debauchery was turned up another notch. ‘Jack The Ripper’ and ‘Mercy Seat’ sated us into a crazed bliss. Cave strolled from one end of the stage to the other, thrusting his hips and raising his arms like bat wings, whilst belting out his songs with a raconteur’s prowess. He pandered to the crowd, fearlessly grabbing their yearning hands and never missing a note.
We screamed for seconds, and our men provided. A goosebump epidemic hit the crowd when Cave settled at the grand piano for his much-loved ballad ‘Into My Arms’. The crowd’s voices reverberated through the amphitheatre alongside Cave’s. If another were band playing, lighters would have been waving. But The Bad Seeds are not the cheesy type.
Instead, guitarist Ed Keupper lurched into the familiar creaking riff of ‘Stagger Lee’. In this performance we witnessed the extent of Cave’s talent: not every performer can get a crowd gleefully singing “I’ll crawl over fifty good pussies just to get to one fat boy’s arsehole’. The blood-bathed lyrics would even have Satan screaming “immoral!” but Cave performs it in such a way that you can’t help but be seduced. Like a late night kebab oozing with meaty grease, we know this story shouldn’t be good for us. But it delectably satisfies our filthy cravings.
The band came out for a second encore with their raucous lullaby ‘Tupelo’ and the feast was done. We were left dozing in the remnants, feeling sickly satiated.
Photo by Tilly Robertson
Tagged Conway Savage, Ed Keupper, Gardenvale Primary School, Grinderman, Mark Lanegan, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Nick Cave, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, The Rolling Stones, Warren Ellis