Live review: Nick Cave, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Sun 26 Apr 2015 (4 stars)

'As raucous, tender, carnal and dramatic as a Cave show should be, with a setlist full of unexpected treats'

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Live review: Nick Cave, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Sun 26 Apr 2015

credit: Peter Kaminski

Nick Cave’s accompanists for the night (they’re not billed as Bad Seeds, despite being to all intents and purposes exactly that) arrive on stage ahead of him and strike up the bass rumble of ‘Water’s Edge’. Then, as the man himself struts on, there’s a moment of worry – something isn’t right on the music stand of his grand piano and he strides back into the wings, brow furrowed even more deeply than usual. Has he finally gone full diva, now that he’s had a film made about him and, er, released his own branded skateboard? Thankfully, the answer is no – the missing songsheet is soon located and he’s back, sense of humour intact.

In fact, Cave is in his prime, and that can’t be said about too many musicians with a near-40-year career behind them. He also seems entirely at ease dotting back and forth through his formidable back catalogue – early on he introduces ‘Brompton Oratory’ as ‘a fucking classic piece of mid-period Cave’. He’s not wrong, but the first spine-tingler of the night is ‘Higgs Boson Blues’, proof if ever it were needed that Push the Sky Away is up there with his very greatest. Spitting out some of his best imagery in years as he slow-mo gyrates up and down the stage, he has two and a half thousand people in the palm of his hand, and one can only imagine how many cold showers the woman in the front row needed after he placed her hand on his chest and whispered ‘can you feel my heart beat?’ while staring into her eyes. Repeatedly.

So magnetic is Cave that it’s sometimes easy to forget the considerable talents of his band – until Warren Ellis’ guitar solo on ‘Mermaids’. When it comes to ‘From Her To Eternity’, the first song the Bad Seeds played together – ‘or so I’m told,’ quips Cave – it’s hard to imagine that time when Ellis wasn’t yet a totally indispensable part of the band. He writhes in his chair as if it were the mercy seat itself, producing sounds from his violin no mortal should be capable of. Thomas Wydler on drums is also mesmeric; JK Simmons’ terrifying musical director in Whiplash is brought to mind as Cave locks eyes on him from the piano and cues the percussive tumbles on ‘Water’s Edge’.

Reflecting the solo billing, Cave spends more time than usual seated at the piano, but on the songs where he plays solo his voice is in danger of overpowering the single instrument. He’s at his best in the midst of an almighty racket, up and lurching about the stage, part-skeleton, part-apeman, part-dandy, part-hellfire preacher, and it feels a bit awkward to be simply sitting while that’s going on in front of you. That fact aside, this is as raucous, tender, carnal and dramatic as a Cave show should be, with a setlist full of unexpected treats, from ‘God is in the House’ to ‘The Lyre of Orpheus’.

Reviewed at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Sun 26 Apr 2015

Nick Cave

He's calling it a solo tour but the brooding singer is accompanied by a backing band of current and former Bad Seed members.

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