Since last Sunday we have been mulling over the first Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (NCBS) episode taping at Austin City Limits TV. Even if you are not a rabid Nick Cave fan, one thing is certain, the man will make you feel something. For most of the audience members, seeing the Australian impresario live was the zenith of a cult-like reverence for the singer. Cave sold-out the same room the previous evening for an ACL Live performance that had fans filling our Twitter feed with over the top superlatives. Judging from an informal survey we conducted, the tv taping was a bit more subdued than the previous evening but equally mesmerizing.
The opening strains of “We Real Cool” from the latest NCBS album, “Push the Sky Away” began with a digital drum track before a single musician took the stage. Slowly, each member of the band filtered onto the riser, taking his position before Cave appeared looking like a Vegas lounge act with dark slacks, a matching black silk shirt unbuttoned to mid-torso and slicked back dark hair trimmed to just above the collar. He looked creepy. With songs that recount the activities of serial killers and charlatans, his aesthetic is intentional as if the singer is channeling the characters he sings about.
Fans on the stage crowded around the two ramps extending from the edge of the stage to get close to Cave who frequently ventured into the fray while fans held their hands up, copping a quick feel of the performer as he crooned. The band’s homage to Elvis, “Tupelo” afforded Cave the opportunity to channel yet another character, belting out lyrics like a deranged preacher. The duality the song illustrates was echoed by the Elvis-like appearance of the singer.
The audience favorites were ode to serial killer, “Red Right Hand” and “Stagger Lee” the closing cover of an old folk tune Cave has made his own. The dichotomy of Cave oscillating between sublime and ridiculous gave the performance the aura of an art-rock show but the material is an strange amalgam of folk, rock and roll and post-nuclear rock. It is easy to see how a show that interesting sold out every single date on the band’s previous North American Tour. The cult hero has effectively turned mainstream.
The new material resonated with us. “Higgs Boson Blues” with the somber and emotive feel the band infuses with the vivid lyrical imagery Cave recites over an uber cool bass line was particularly gratifying. Title track to the new album “Push the Sky Away” was selected for an encore. The low-key number with its haunting riffs brought the pendulous set to a tidy close.
The episode will air sometime this fall. Check the ACL TV website (link at top of page) or follow ACL TV on Facebook and Twitter for social media updates of television schedules, streaming video and more about the show.
We Real Cool
Red Right Hand
From Her to Eternity
God Is in the House
Higgs Boson Blues
The Mercy Seat
Push the Sky Away
Special thanks to April Burcham and Leslie Nichols.