I wanted evil versus good, beauty versus hideousness, death versus life, Nick Cave versus Chris Bailey; and at the Glashaus on a rather more intimate stage compared to the barn like atmosphere of the Arena where they played a night later and looked like ants on a hot plate behind distorted sounds.
Their beautiful songs were crossing the wrong roads as one moved around or rather hustled and bustled trying to find a good position to enjoy the concert in the midst of thousands of adoring and sweating fans. The Arena should be called the Boiler Room instead. Good luck to Bjork and Peaches when they will trample the stage there soon.
The Glashaus for me was the right venue where a band like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds filled my musical spots. Over the years I have been to so many of their concerts in various venues and I still prefer to feel like I am part of their intimate audience. As an adoring fan I like to have their music touch my fingertips, their songs to crash into my ears from an insignificant distance.
The Glashaus concert began slowly rather a warm up but soon the gig climbed gently to culminate into the show we came for. The band felt unplugged, where any false musical cord was welcomed and ‘blamed’ on the sound engineer rather than on the musicians. Throughout their mighty presence on stage, their set list was turned around a few times, tampered with to no disappointments as I enjoyed all their songs no matter what order they came in. Who cares if Nick wanted to play Deanna when the rest of the band was getting ready for Tupelo? I mean Tupelo can fall a little behind because Deanna is just as wild and for me this minimal love story brings back the ‘80s as I have been to that little house on the hill planning a mystery “murder deal”.
As long as Tupelo makes it on the set list (which it didn’t by the way), I am all for Deanna jumping the cue. Who cares about the order when all their songs are such memorable ballads, chewed and digested so strikingly by the entire band? I wanted to hear them all.
Nick had some problems taking on board the high notes of Johnny Cash’s The Singer and with laughter he admitted his voice was not quite ready for that kind of falsetto. He should have tried drinking whisky or a glass of gin with a touch of lemon during sound check but his drinking days might be over. Some old pearls, Sad Waters, Do You Love Me. The Ship Song, Into My Arms were performed without any problems sending the crowds into hysterics. They got me and the rest of the fans, teary and nostalgic and I expected Nick to come down to our level as well.
New gems from his new album crept in while the highlight was the duet with the jolly Irish Saint from Brisbane, Chris Bailey who came on stage sucking and dragging the last nicotine out of his cigarette, pacing nervously feeling out of place as if frightened by the mike or perhaps the audience. The honour was all Nick’s but nevertheless Chris appeared to be battling away a mild case of stage fright. Berlin’s tough audience can do that to musicians. But thank God as Chris’s stamina as he pulled himself together fast to give out mighty fierce bellows behind Nick’s pleadings. Chris Bailey is an introvert on stage and an extravert Irish patriot backstage. He can tell jokes in so many accents you think this guy has multiple personalities disorders. A bottle in his hand, a joke on his lips, a talk about the footy on the Gold Coast turn Chris Bailey into one of the funniest guy I have ever met. Then again all the Irish are stark raving mad especially if they are still Catholic punks.
Mick Harvey appeared to be the backbone of the band once again a role he is comfortable with that shows his talent, his musical expertise and his ability to keep everyone in time. Blixa’s absence was evident especially his melodic guitar riffs which embellished the Bad Seeds’ songs with grace and power. My heart was wiping as we missed out on The Weeping Song and The Mercy Seat was less wiry. The question at the tip of my pen is why isn’t Blixa a bad seed any more? As difficult as it is to accept the substantial hole Blixa left behind, it is only fair to say that James from Galleon Drunk didn’t suck either. Conway’s piano-injected harmonies while Sclavunos’s percussions gave the performance the urban jungle jives. Warren Ellis’s violin left its ‘dirty three’ mark on so melancholic and soo soo sad that would make any grown up man break his little finger in half. If anyone is a Dirty Three fan they should get off their arses and listen to their live version of Shivers, (an old Boys Next Door song written by Rowland S Howard,) with Nick Cave hollers those poignant lyrics while the Dirty Three bring the song into the ground with so much sadness coming off the violin.
Back at the Glashaus like marionettes the rest of the musicians managed to rotate their roles and the instruments with Thomas Wydler jumping from strings, to bells to drums. My humble words can hardly describe their musical methods and all I know is The Bad Seeds are one of those bands that never disappoint and never do the wrong thing. The fans know the songs and Nick doesn’t have to appologise for his zealous secular lyrics and the songs about love, murder, God and his love for Jesus. No one cringes when they hear Jesus and the Bible so often alive in Nick’s songs: God is my House which graced the stage together with other Biblical grooves such as: Hallelujah, Christina the Astonishing, There is a Kingdom (is there really?) He has managed to make Jesus and Kylie Minogue fashionable and hip once again and got away with it. Who else can write that in their Resume? Maybe Johnny Cash.
I would not dare not to buy their new album, Nocturama. Not only because Blixa still appears on it but also because this album is another stage into Nick’s ambitions and thoughts. The lyrics are poetic, (Speak our secret into your hands and hold it in between; Wonderful Life, which by the way is a great live number), more lovable yet somehow I feel distance, sadness again and a sense of displacement amongst the “dark streets, up and down, up and down, under a dark sky” inside the song There is a Town. Crime will never leave his songs and neither will odes to past loves. With Babe, I’m on Fire he really means it when he plays this number live, a great raucous version, which pays tribute to many faces and personalities he might have met along his road to fame. When I first heard Bring it On The Duet with Chris Bailey I thought it was about Flowers and Trees but I realised it much scarier than that and with Dead Man in My Bed, Nick’s voodoo magic is back and my ears are a witness to a horror film.
Although the set was not as tight as it would be after an arduous tour but rather loose, relaxed and friendly with a few gaps of musical misbehaviour, Nick and the rest of the band rather casual than far away as they were at the Arena, the intimacy of the Glashaus set off a dialogue between the band and its adoring audience. The Bad Seeds could laugh at themselves and verbally mingle with the audience about which songs really existed and really no one should go near any bootlegs or MP3 piracy.
The audience could touch his red right hand as Nick was caught in that classic Cave pose: feet on the speakers, arms begging reactions, and as a prayer book, the microphone deep inside his palm. Nick the stripper has risen a long way, from deceit, squalor and punk titles such as Drunk on the Pope’s Blood from the old Birthday Party days to grace the stage with contemporary biblical journeys, lost and new love stories, murder ballads and melancholia open to all fans old and new to sink their teeth into. The Silverchair who is Australia’s answer to juvenile Nirvana rushed from the Arena where they played to catch the last encore. Guy Pierce was right behind them and the only cool thing I could scram up from the bottom of my mind was:’ It is so nice to see Australian actors support Australian musicians’. He liked being called a talent.
And catching up with the Bad Seeds later was finding out more about the Australian Rules football scores as Mick Harvey’s favourite local team, North Melbourne made it into the Grand Final, than finally do any interview with Nick, the man himself.