London Her Majesty's Theatre
Feb 10th 2013
This gig was the first in a whirlwind tour of unusual venues around the world that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are doing to promote their forthcoming album Push The Sky Away.
It’s a strange mix in the audience, the guest list queue longer than the ticketed queue suggesting the single ticket I’d managed to get was more by luck than anything else. I’d never seen Nick Cave before and wasn’t overly familiar with the back catalogue either, but I’d been told I had to see him, so here I was.
Her Majesty’s Theatre is a grand old building, and I’m up at the side in the Royal Circle, which means I can’t see the string section, nor the second drummer and a guitarist. However, that doesn’t matter as I can hear them as the sound is superb, although Nick points out that there’s signs at the front of the stage preventing him foraying out in the audience for fear of injury, which makes the gig odd for him.
The set starts with a run-through of the new album, in order. No shying away from playing it or just giving us one or two songs, it’s how it’s meant to be heard and it sounds fantastic. Highlights are Jubilee Street and Higgs Boson Blues, the two longest tracks on the record. Nick paces the stage like a man possessed, stopping only to check his lyrics notes at certain points.
Whilst the new record doesn’t match up to the punk fury of some of the older songs that get played later, it’s wild enough to placate those looking for them to recreate that past, but also enough for those who have mellowed with them. The reception for it is astonishing, little if any murmurs of discontent at being exposed to a record you can’t legally get hold of in full.
The second half brings some old crowd favourites into the set, going all the way back to their debut From Her To Eternity. Although there’s constant requests for songs throughout from the crowd, they’re ignored or gently refused. Nick’s humour comes through when he tells the children’s choir assembled at the back of the stage to stop texting before one song because they have to sing, politely turning down a request to take off his shirt and during encore Stagger Lee he forgets part of the song and laughs it off.
There’s still a fire raging in his voice and in his performance, and of that of the band as well, lest we forget it isn’t just the Nick Cave show, that puts many younger bands to shame, and whilst there’s moments of adrenalin and passion, there’s also parts where Nick’s sat at a piano almost soothing the crowd.
It’s an strange venue for a band with the intensity that the Bad Seeds generate. Despite the lack of familiarity with the new material and the fact they’re also still a bit rusty given this is the first night proper of the tour, it’s impossible to take your attention away from the music and Nick on stage. You can’t ask for more than that from any gig.
We No Who U R, Wide Lovely Eyes, Water’s Edge, Jubilee Street, Mermaids, We Real Cool, Finishing Jubilee Street, Higgs Boson Blues, Push The Sky Away, From Her To Eternity, Red Right Hand, O Children, The Ship Song, Jack The Ripper, Deanna, Your Funeral My Trial, Love Letter, Mercy Seat and Stagger Lee.
Push The Sky Away is out on February 18th.