Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, Wed 26 Nov
Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, Wed 26 Nov.
Now this is how to work a crowd. ‘You’ve got the wrong band, mate’, says Nick Cave, as someone up the front makes a call for something not actually performed by he and his Bad Seeds (it must have been a Grinderman or Birthday Party track, we’re guessing). Another yelp from the crowd, again hard to make out: ‘I’m fucking in the middle of something here,’ snaps back the singer with a shadow of dark humour. Then later on, ‘this is a song which seeks to answer all your questions… about shit’. Banter like this, scathing, sharp and merciless, gilds the show just that precious little bit more.
Not that a set by Cave and his Bad Seeds is ever anything less than intense and captivating, for all types of reasons, but this just wasn’t the place to hold it. The Corn Exchange gets an unfair rap a lot of the time, but there can be no denying that its clean, white-walled modernity all but fought against any sense of gothic grandeur in this show. Cave played the Playhouse last time he was here, and that’s a far more conducive venue to the kind of atmosphere he commands.
The band can’t be faulted, though – this was still a monumental greatest hits set. Lovers hugged each other closer during the tender, heart-swelling ‘Ship Song’ and ‘Love Letter’, and then in quick turn Cave developed a real sense of almost biblical fear. A reworked ‘Mercy Seat’ was stark and relentless, while the closing ‘Stagger Lee’ seeped, as always, with seedy, homoerotic violence. ‘We Call Upon the Author’ – the question-answering vehicle mentioned above – is superb in the live setting, a crunching attack on pretentious art which doubles as a forlorn call to God for answers to life’s stupidity.
Despite the surroundings, then, Cave and his Bad Seeds chugged on like hell’s own steamboat entertainment, a morass of tarnished dreams and unexpected beauty. They create art of which it’s almost impossible to tire.