Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds dropped by the Beacon Theatre on September 8, 1998 to teach New Yorkers a thing or two about doom and gloom. Count Cave (as he has come to be known in these parts) put on a hell of a show. In fact, you could almost see the demons rise from the Netherworld as he took command of the stage.
As one would guess, the crowd at a Nick Cave concert comprises multitudes of people clad in black, with Day-Glo hair, body tattoos and steel rings pierced through the most precarious of body parts. Count Cave, as you may have guessed, also wore black for the occasion, and kicked off his set with a slow ballad ("Far From Me" from The Boatman's Call) instead of a rocker – a bold move, but Cave was never one to follow the crowd.
The Count didn't do a lot of talking throughout his set, but he did sing his tormented guts out. (His longest monologue for the evening: "We've been away. We've been traveling. But they tell me if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere…")
Cave frenetically paced the stage during the performance, giving his roadie a run for his money, untangling the microphone cable that managed to continually wrap itself around every solid object on stage. (May I suggest a wireless mike?) The Count is a tall and lean figure, slighter even than Scott Weiland or David Bowie (the latter of whom, he managed to smoke more cigarettes than onstage, a feat I thought I'd never live to see).
Cave gradually picked up the pace as the set continued, performing behind a backdrop of stormy and twisted Van Gogh-like trees borrowed from the cover of his new Best of… CD. One of the evening's highlights was his blistering rendition of "Red Right Hand," delivered under a hellish glow of blood red lights.
When Cave sings, he hovers at the very edge of the stage, rocking and gesticulating like a Baptist preacher gone mad from the morning heat. He has a transfixing Rasputin-like presence that I've seen in few performers before. Yes, he does hit the occasional flat note, but as we do with Lou Reed, we readily forgive Count Cave for this transgression. In fact, in this age of Backstreet Boys, Hanson and, ugh, the Spice Girls, he is no less than a godsend to the music business today.
Later in the set, Cave sat behind the keyboards to offer beautiful renditions of "Into My Arms" and "Brompton Oratory," both from the The Boatman's Call. As I listened to the latter, my eyes wandered around the environs of the Beacon Theatre, whose turn-of-the-century architecture has to make it one of the city's most beautiful rooms, and the most fitting for a Nick Cave concert. One complaint, though, is that they serve one brand of beer and it's Budweiser. I gave a sip to my girlfriend and she said it tasted "very light," which I suppose is the polite, female way of saying it tasted like piss.
At the evening's close, the audience treated Cave to a standing ovation that must have lasted well into 10 minutes. The Count rewarded the crowd with an encore that spanned several songs, including his infamous take on "Stagger Lee," from Murder Ballads, one of the few modern rock songs to incorporate homicide, adultery, sodomy and a host of other human offenses into its string of rambling lyrics. (I counted the word "motherfucker" being employed 87 times, but I think I may have missed one or two.)
After Cave finished this last mini-set, he seemed almost hesitant to end for the night. He offered the crowd a couple of his rare spoken statements as he begrudgingly prepared to leave: "Thank you. You're very kind." The final phrase said to his flock, though, was "God bless you," as the Count disappeared behind the curtains at stage left.
More Nick Cave:
Interview CD Review (The Boatman's Call) CD Review (No More Shall We Part)
Send this page to a friend Join our mailing list Current Stories Classifieds