Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Barclays Center, New York - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Barclays Center, New York

by Kevin Orton Rating: Release Date:
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Barclays Center, New York
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Barclays Center, New York

Going back into the last century, I’ve seen Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds a ton over the years. He has never disappointed. No kitchen sink remains unscathed. Passions are torn to tatters and flung in your face. To take the edge off, he croons beautiful ballads telling you terrible things. And all of that was in store for the crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last night. And more.

I’ve never been a fan of stadium shows. But over the years Cave & The Bad Seeds have made the transition from club to stadium act. Regardless, the man fills the room, vocally and physically. I daresay, there are few rock stars around these days with his quality of work or charisma. And at 61, he’s even gotten better. I’ve never seen him so warm and energized. I swear it felt more like a Pentecostal revival meeting than a rock concert. As for The Bad Seeds, they were in stunning form.

Much of the set focused on highlights from his last two albums, Push The Sky Away and Skeleton Tree. He kicked off the set intimately and in his own world with ‘Jesus Alone’. A song that seemed to want to summon the audience in. Many were still milling in and wandering about, unsure of how to respond. If you expected Cave to launch off the evening with ‘Mercy Seat’, think again. For my money, it was a far more interesting way to begin a big stadium show. At one point early on, the lights came up on the house and Cave remarked, “Well, that was terrifying.” Then, after a moment of consideration said, “Do it again!”  

For studio recordings that relied on atmosphere, slow-burning build and intimacy, the selections Cave made from his last two albums, made the transition to stadium stage magnificently. ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ had all thunder and humor the recorded version held the reigns on. ‘Jubilee Street’ went from ominous Noir to a frightening explosion of madness and neurosis.

In terms of classics, Cave offered positively ferocious versions of ‘From Her To Eternity’ and ‘Tupelo’. Two of the finest performances I’ve ever witnessed of these songs. And I’ve seen plenty of stellar live versions over the years.  He also dipped healthily into Let Love In with dynamic performances of ‘Loverman’, ‘Do You Love Me’, and a beautifully menacing, ‘Red Right Hand’.

Real surprises came when Cave sat down at the piano. He gave a beautiful rendition of ‘Ship Song’ and an absolutely touching, ‘Into My Arms’. He then announced he would do a rare, old song. ‘Shoot Me Down’ was a B-side outtake from Nocturama and has been one of my personal favorites for quite some time. I couldn’t believe he played it. This version featuring the multi-talented Warren Ellis on a wonderfully demented flute. An unexpected treat.

Cave made his way into the audience for a rousing version of, ‘The Weeping Song’. Only Cave could make this melancholic ballad a clap-a-long. Being on the floor as opposed in the stadium seats, Cave was right up in front of us. When it comes to commanding performances, Cave hit a home run here. At one point during the song, smiley face balloons were let go and bouncing around on the fingertips of the audience. As they made their way to Cave, he smiled warmly, “We had nothing to do with this. It’s the venue. Please don’t photograph me with one of these things.”

Perversely, he invited members of the crowd on stage for his notoriously filthy version of, ‘Stagger Lee’. Absolutely hilarious to see a crowd of moms and nerds singing along to, “I’d crawl over 50 good pussies just to get to one fat boy’s asshole.” He kept the crowd up for ‘Push The Sky Away’, a haunting song and Cave’s parting gesture.

Of course, there’s always an encore. Cave & The Bad Seeds launched into a fiery ‘City Of Refuge’ and then made preparations to move on to an audience participatory, ‘Rings of Saturn’. However, an audience member reminded Cave to do, ‘Mercy Seat’. After apologizing for forgetting it, he then proceeded to blow the roof off the joint. A simply inspired performance. I’ve seen it live many times over the years, but this version was special. He then bade us all farewell with gorgeous, ‘Rings of Saturn.’

As a longtime fan who’s seen Cave live a lot over the years, he seems to have achieved a whole new level of performance these days. He is welcoming, warm, engaging and flat-out hilarious. If unable to catch him on this tour, hit the concert film, Distant Sky to get a taste of it. A simply amazing show.


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