Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne (28/01/17)

From the moment Nick Cave walks onstage there is a resolution of purpose and quiet intensity to his demeanour. He immediately addresses the audience with waves and locks eyes with those in the front row as behind him the band dip into Anthrocene. He bops, he sways, he croons, muttering each phrase as if it were a message of grave importance that he needs to tell you – not you as a collective, but you individually, and you better listen close.

This intensity would not waver from the first to the last song of the band’s second night at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, a hometown show before fans, friends and family, who, if they managed to abstain from standing, were surely on the edge of their seats.

After three songs from the dark and personal new album Skeleton Tree, Cave’s long serving co-pilot Warren Ellis delivers the opening chords to the mesmerising description of a mirage that is Higgs Boson Blues. The song has become one of the highlights of every Bad Seeds show since Push the Sky Away was released four years ago and Cave immediately drops from the lip of the stage onto the crowd barrier, singing intensely to the crowd one by one. He reaches for their hands, leans into them for support and pushes his face up against theirs.

The last two albums have shown a new way forward for The Bad Seeds, exploring an understanding of the power of breath between the notes, of silence between the howls. But when it’s time get loud, The Bad Seeds do so in an explosion of sound, moving together as a ferocious rock’n’roll machine, Cave spitting out From Her to Eternity and Tupelo, seeming every inch the menacing gothic prince of days gone by.

Jubilee Street builds upon a nimble groove and kicks into an uptempo pace in its second half, a thrilling and unexpected move. Cave whirls manically across the stage declaring over and over ‘I am vibrating, I am flying, look at me now.’

After almost two hours, Cave leaves us with the crazed narrative of Stagger Lee and the beautiful Push the Sky Away, his attention for the duration unwavering, his commitment total, his purpose resolute. With the current incarnation of The Bad Seeds sounding as immersed in the cause as any that have rallied under that banner, thirty-three years in, they are still exploring new ways to be at the top of their game.

Originally published in Beat Magazine #1561

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