One of the most clichéd things any concert reviewer can say to start a piece is “theres a real buzz around the venue” (or words to that effect). Tonight though, makes me realize that all those other times I wrote that were nothing like this. I’ve been to many a sold-out Metropolis show, but none that were like this. Upon arrival on the balcony, people are sitting on the steps, leaning against the walls, and obviously, every stool is taken; the floor section is no less heaving. Yes, tonight is more packed than packed: 40-odd years into his musical career, Nick Cave is still unquestionably quite the draw. Metropolis is packed by 8pm, and ready for what we all know is going to be a great show.
Nick and his Bad Seeds take to the stage just after 8 to an unsurprisingly spooky soundtrack, and after a quick wave to the packed house, Nick takes a seat in the centre of the stage and begins the haunting narrative of Anthrocene over a backdrop of piano and haunting backing vocals. After standing and removing the chair, the feedback effects of Jesus Alone resonate as Nick patrols the front of the stage bearing tortured expressions throughout. Magneto starts softly with just piano, before slowly being joined by bass and drums, and at the front of the stage Nick leans over and waves his hands as if to beckon the crowd closer or even onto the stage (although the Security are ready and primed to make sure that doesn’t happen!).
The strum riff of Higgs Boson Blues elicits huge cheers from around the room, and Nick again reaches from the front of the stage, reaching into the sea of hands swirling towards him, before reaching a furious climax with the crowd singing “BOOM BOOM BOOM” with Nick as he taps the mic to his chest to simulate his heartbeat; it’s a mesmerizing moment. After a brief pause, Nick yells “I WANNA TELL YOU ABOUT A GIRL!!!” to detonate From Her To Eternity, as drums, piano, Wurlitzer and violin all explode into life immediately thereafter. The pace keeps up with the driving bass of Tupelo, culminating in an emphatic “YOU WILL REAP JUST WHAT YOU SOW!” before cutting to silence, ending the song as suddenly as From Her to Eternity started.
Jubilee Street sees the room darken and Nick sing over just an electric guitar, before drums join the party and things get a little more frantic. Nick takes his place at his grand piano for the frenetic finale. Things slow down notably on The Ship Song to allow everyone to finally catch their breath, and continues through Into My Arms (dedicated to the bagel shop that fed him earlier today!), Girl In Amber and I Need You, before picking up again with the classic Red Right Hand, which will always remind me of Dumb And Dumber and that scene where Lloyd gets robbed by the sweet old lady on a motorized cart (with that song playing in the background). Live, it’s incredible, rumbling along on a stage lit only in red, before erupting into life with flashing white light during the breakdown, and is yet another set highlight.
The Mercy Seat sees another soft start that ends in almost a hoe-down, finishing with Nick slamming his mic onto the stage, before the ethereal Distant Sky and Skeleton Tree close out the main set, with Nick departing the stage first and leaving The Bad Seeds to finish the song in his absence. All return after a brief pause with Nick assuring the crowd “we’ll do several songs so don’t panic!” Rings Of Saturn almost resembles a spoken-word piece over a space-age atmospheric beat, with Bad Seeds adding backing vocals, and then Mermaids and the expletive-laden Stagger Lee follow. The eerie Push The Sky Away concludes the encore, with Nick proclaiming “Thank you Montreal, you’ve been wonderful!” After a final thanks to The Bad Seeds, he leaves the stage for good, again leaving the band to finish the song and the set, after a stellar 2 hours and 10 minutes. One of the shows of the year so far, without question.
Higgs Boson Blues
From Her to Eternity
The Ship Song
Into My Arms
Girl in Amber
I Need You
Red Right Hand
The Mercy Seat
Rings Of Saturn
Push the Sky Away
Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Steve Gerrard & Randal Wark