Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds @ Brisbane Riverstage 08.03.13
Ten reasons the skies opened: just count the holes in the motherfucker’s head
1. There were masses of people on stage. The Queensland Symphony Orchestra String Players. A 12 Piece Choir. An entire phalanx of singing kiddies up past their bed time (and sent timely to bed right before Saint Nick got properly stuck into the profanity and the carnal imagery). Mark Lanegan (duetting on ‘The Weeping Song’ and sounding for all the world like the gnarled soulful bluesman that folk say he is). There were more people up there on stage in the lush surroundings of Brisbane’s Riverstage than at the last five gigs I’ve attended. And yet you couldn’t hear even bloody Ed Kuepper’s acoustic guitar during Ed Kuepper’s bloody acoustic guitar solo, let alone the subtleties and intricacies of a bunch of people all dressed up all nice and in suits and ready to do battle for whichever God was throwing them the most moolah. You could hear the band, sure. You could hear the wind. You could the rain pattering off 5,000 instant cagoules and the sound of Saint Nick himself (in tune when seated, wild and out-of-tune when standing up). You know me. You know I care shit for sound. But all those good folk couldn’t have been there just for spectacle, surely?
2. Saint Nick had entered an Unholy Faustian pact with God herself – to wit, that if he promised to lay off playing his Unholy Row and Sweet Folksy Ballads and (in particular) ‘Stagger Lee’ – and he scrapped the second encore, then God Herself would time it that the skies would open up and drench the assembled faithful right on the final chord so roundly that there would be no complaint at the abrupt finale.
3. ‘Stagger Lee’ was so outrageously fun and profane and growling and staged and theatrical that every time I see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds perform it I am instantly, painfully aware that it is has just become a highlight of whichever year I’m witnessing it in. And yet it isn’t even my favourite version!
Bugger objectivity. Bugger the motherfuckers who preach that sin. Four shots to the head, and immaculate timing. In my original draft of this review I was just going to draw out the lyrics to ‘Stagger Lee’, note by fecund note, note by fucking fecund note, until everyone – even Tame Impala fans – had got the idea. Not so dissimilar from ‘Go The Fuck To Sleep’, but that’s the beauty of it.
4. ‘The Mercy Seat’ sounded pedestrian (a word I never thought I’d see used in conjunction with that song), but ‘Push The Sky Away’ was mesmerising. (We could all imagine it, see, with those storm clouds looming).) We bobbed and weaved in our mud-splattered cagoules and wide-brimmed hats, occasionally punching the air in supplication. ‘Papa Won’t Leave You Henry’ always makes me miss PJ Harvey by word association, but ‘Love Letter’ was beautiful. Oh yes it was. Saint Nick singing like Saint Nick likes to sing, all deep and low and sonorous, although nowhere near as deep and low and sonorous as Mark fucking Lanegan when he was on stage who once again is my Favourite Pacific Northwest Blues Singer and this from a guest appearance standing in for Saint Nick’s dad that lasted a handful of minutes.
5. Warren Ellis. Man, I miss… oh wait. He was there, right? Teach me to stand left of far back on the hard shoulder in the mud and plastic beakers.
6. This one. You always got to love an out-and-out crowd-pleaser like this one.
7. Wait a second. I was giving reasons why the sky opened. Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? Such gleeful profanity and rampant sexual innuendo (it’s not really innuendo when someone’s so direct about their midlife crisis, is it?) and in the open! And so close to the Brisbane CBD too. ‘Jack The Ripper’ and a suitably rolling ‘Red Right Hand’ and ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ (which seems an immediate classic, but it’s still too close to judge) and the lovely ‘O Children’. GOD IS ANGRY! God is fucking furious, frankly. And that’s without the encore of…
8. Pornographic poetry.
I’ll stay here till Billy comes in, till time comes
And furthermore I’ll fuck Billy in his motherfucking
Said Stagger Lee
I’m a bad motherfucker, don’t you know
And I’ll crawl over 50 good pussies just to get one
Fat boy’s asshole
Said Stagger Lee
Just then Billy dilly rolls in and he says, you
That bad motherfucker called Stagger Lee
Yeah, I’m Stagger Lee and you better get down on
And suck my dick, because if you don’t you’re gonna be
Said Stagger Lee
9. And cue… screams.
10. This one photograph of Justin’s seems to sum it all up better than I ever could. (I’d suggested that for our In Photos coverage, we run a series of photographs of complete blackness, as a comment upon Saint Nick & The Bad Seeds’ near-legendary “one song, no flash” edict to budding commentators. We didn’t do this, but in this we merely mirrored the great lost final issue of Careless Talk Costs Lives which myself and Steve Gullick were intending to print embossed black on black.)
You didn’t really believe me about the kiddies, did you?
While we’re here, here’s my favourite song from the new album. They didn’t play it in Brisbane.