Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Barrowland, Glasgow, Thu 31 Oct 2013
Cave and co deliver a combination of gothic majesty and piano-led balladry on All Hallow's Eve
All Hallow's Eve feels like the perfect night to see Nick Cave – the self-styled dark prince of punk – when the veil between this world and the next is purportedly at its thinnest. These days, the Sussex-dwelling Cave is more a reluctant national treasure than the gutter poet of yore. But, as he and his band emphatically demonstrate tonight, he still packs a punch.
Opening the proceedings at the Barrowland – a bearpit of a venue cryogenically frozen in dry ice and McEwans Export since the 1960s – is Shilpa Ray. Fanning an Indian harmonium, she sings with soulful conviction, ‘I'm not a good person, oh boy, I'm just a good time girl’. While she manages to hold the audiences attention with simple means, there’s little to differentiate her songs over a 40-minute set.
Cave and the Bad Seeds stalk on stage looking like a 'Where are they now?' feature on the cast of The Lost Boys. They open with a couple of songs from new album, Push the Sky Away: 'We No Who U R' and 'Jubilee Street', two languid ballads led by Warren Ellis' two-chord guitar patterns. But it's not until the grinding gothic majesty of 'Do You Love Me?' that things really heat up.
By the time the peal of thunder that ushers in 'Tupelo' breaks across the auditorium, the audience are in raptures. Based on a John Lee Hooker song, Cave reimagines a historical flood in the titular Mississippi town as a biblical curse hanging over the place where Elvis and his still-born twin were conceived. The singer lurches across the stage like a praying mantis in heat as the band ride the same kidney-punching riff to the song's ‘you will reap just what you sow’ climax.
New tune 'Higgs Boson Blues' provides another highlight, with Cave invoking ancient Greek poetess Sappho and delta bluesman Robert Johnson in a tale of genocide in Geneva. Elsewhere, a run of piano-led ballads from The Boatman's Call ('Into My Arms' and 'People Ain't No Good') are genuinely moving and unlikely anthems to be bellowed back at him by an adoring audience at the Barrowland. ‘Everyday is Hallowe'en for me’, he quips before exiting the stage to rapturous applause.
In a week where the world lost one of rock music's truly great innovators in Lou Reed, Cave's priapic and poetic rock is made all the more cherishable.