[Live Review] Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam (4-11-2013)

NC&BS_official2Its been only a few months since the gig at the Netherlands’ biggest pop festival, A Campingflight to Lowlands, and from what we’ve heard from a few youngsters, Cave rocked the audience’s the socks off! Now for us ‘younger elderly’ Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds scheduled a new concert in Amsterdam’s Heineken Music Hall (HMH) halfway through November. Alas this was sold out in an instant. Luck has it Cave found another free date in his busy touring schedule, resulting in an extra (but far from sold-out) Amsterdam concert. Sounds from the Dark Side couldn’t resist the temptation and made the long and arduous journey to the sprawling edges of Holland’s capital.

Having spent too long with an admittedly very driven Shilpa Ray and her harmonium, Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds band take the stage at 9 p.m. sharp. Its needless to say that the current Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds tour is centered around their last studio album, Push the Sky Away. It is our opinion that Push the Sky Away is a wonderful album that contains countless small gestures. Beforehand a fear existed that these beautiful details could easily be lost in the spacious HMH venue. Luckily the opposite proved to be true, after the opening with We No Who U R and a blistering rendition of Jubilee Street, it becomes immediately apparent that the band is in fine form tonight  leaving much room for tenderness. Yet it must be said the sound engineers were having some trouble with how to let this tenderness land, for the first two or three tracks were very loud. Cave also shows he is more than willing to rock tonight and plays older work from The Firstborn is Dead (1985) and Let Love In (1994) from the start. However the show really kicks in after Red Right Hand’s bell and Cave begins to play with the crowd by defiantly walking around and figuratively gripping us by the  throat. For many, this is the Nick Cave we want to see, crawling, haunting and shimmering. Surely there is also a more romantic, or let’s say bittersweet, side to the work of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The band also has a place in the show for these songs. Into My Arms  (from The Boatman’s Call, 1997), God is in the House, Love Letter (from No More Shall We Part, 2001) are performed in a sovereign manner. Between these tracks some fans called out for older songs. Cave was quick to reply: “… I wrote about 260 songs in my career, tonight unfortunately I can only play about 14 of them, so you have to settle for that.” And so we did with great pleasure, also because the band played 22 tracks instead of the promised 14. During the last part of the concert the band continued to play a variety of songs ranging from pretty old to very new. On Tender Prey’s (1988) The Mercy Seat, Cave is filled with an inner anger which is unleashed in very fine way. Also the twisted murder ballad Stagger Lee is played with complete conviction (oh yeah…), indeed Cave is in complete control of the HMH which is a recipe for goose bumps.

NC&BS_official1

During the mandatory encore the band rounds up a great gig by again combining the old with the new. Special attention should be paid to Give Us a Kiss which is not featured on Push the Sky Away. Give Us a Kiss is somehow an anticlimax of an energetic show for this track is rather dull. The track however does fit the atmosphere of this latest release and is a soft piano ballad that is eventually supported with some dreamy synths. As a whole Cave’s most recent studio effort is well represented tonight. Intentionally or not, though, the six Push the Sky Away tracks serve more as a resting point between the more dangerous, frantic rocking material of old, lacking that certain sonic edge and the massive wall of sound the band frequently erects during some of the more classic stuff offered here tonight (in some cases Warren Ellisviolin play was barley to be heard). Still, songs like Higgs Boson Blues, We Real Cool or an almost magical, introvert rendition of Push the Sky Away are definite highlights of an already memorable evening.

Set list:

1. We No Who U R
2. Jubilee Street
3. Do You Love Me?
4. Tupelo
5. Red Right Hand
6. Mermaids
7. From Her to Eternity
8. West Country Girl
9. God Is in the House
10. Love Letter
11. Watching Alice
12. Higgs Boson Blues
13. Into My Arms
14. Hiding All Away
15. The Mercy Seat
16. Stagger Lee
17. Push the Sky Away
Encore:
18. We Real Cool
19. Babe, You Turn Me On
20. Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry
21. Deanna
22. Give Us a Kiss

Line-up:
Nick Cave
Barry Adamson
Thomas Wydler
Martyn P. Casey
Conway Savage
Jim Sclavunos
Warren Ellis
George Vjestica

Further Surfing:
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds on Facebook
Official website

Review by Wander Meulemans & Ralph Plug // 051113

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