2 March 2013
I hate concerts at Melbourne’s Meyer Music Bowl. Unless you’re in close proximity to the stage, the sound sucks, and the view is almost non-existent. So, I had no intention of forking out a hundred bucks to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds strut their stuff under the starry summer sky, as much as I love their music. As fate would have it, a friend gave me a free ticket to the performance at the last minute, so I hauled my sorry ass to the much maligned bowl and joined the assembled throng of goths, ghouls and suburbanite posers gathered on a walled off expanse of grass on the edge of the city.
As expected, the view was shite, and the sound from the back of the crowd was an indistinct rumble. Nick started with songs from his new album, which I’d heard a few times during the proceeding weeks. It’s not the stone cold classic he thinks it is, but it’s not an unmitigated disaster, either. I think he’s going for a new sound, or a new approach to composition (a lot of the tracks sound like they’ve been built from loops). The music draws me in. The band are joined by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and a children’s choir. I gradually move forward, politely winding my way through the crowd towards the source of the sound, towards the bright atmospheric stage lights, drawn like a moth to the the goth’s flame. The sound improves dramatically. I feel the visceral thump of Martin Casey’s growling bass guitar, and hear the spooky sounds of the diminutive cherubs. The orchestra are on fire, especially once Nick plays the old tunes. I think he plays most of the new album before launching into an incendiary set of old classics — Red Right Hand, Tupelo, Deanna, the Ship Song, and so many more. His stage patter is droll, laconic, so very Melbourne. He is the prodigal son bellowing and bleating under hometown skies. The orchestra turn From Her to Eternity in a completely different song. They inject a heightened sense of drama to the tune. It sounds like an unearthed gem from Bernard Herrmann, it’s spiky, foreboding and a testament to the Orchestra’s ability to rock out.
Once Nick sends the kiddies to bed, the Bad Seeds step up a notch, and deliver a stunning run of their greatest hits, culminating in a bad ass rendition of Stagger Lee. Nick pulls out all stops and executes his demented preacher shtick with aplomb, prancing and strutting around the stage, bringing down the wrath of Satan with aggressive gesticulations, finger pointing, and scissor kicking. Age has not wearied him, he’s intense, a hard working man on top of his game. I forget where I am. Cave’s charisma is palpable, and his home crowd fans give him a conqueror’s ovation.
I’ve had a good time despite myself, and I wander through the city streets transformed, against all expectation, by the power of Mr Cave’s transcendent poetic musings on the mysteries do life, death and love.