Record Reviews

The Abattoir Blues Tour

There’s no doubt about it. Nick Cave’s suit fits him just so in the two concerts documented here. The Bad Seeds too are dressed in formal wear. But it is Cave’s bespoke number that attracts attention as he parades. The perverted classic lines on display mirror that of Cave’s recent music. His take on gospel, for instance, has his line-up of backup singers issuing lines of high-hell sacrilege. In ?Stagger Lee?, included here in a typically incendiary version, Cave sets about (seriously) upending a blues classic. It’s part of the whole Cave thing – the one-time (post-)punk living in Jane Austen’s beloved Brighton, all velvet jackets and songs about fucking. It’d be a comedy sketch if it weren’t so seriously impressive.

What’s noticeable in this duo of 2003 and 2004 shows in support of the Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus album is Cave’s compelling charisma as a performer and the strength of the most recent material. The suit doesn’t maketh the musician. Even as it becomes apparent his voice can be a thin thing and that some of his earlier songs border on a by-the-numbers, depraved Romanticism (?Sad Waters?, ?Watching Alice?, ?Christina the Astonishing?), the magnetism of his performance tugs beyond those moments. The band helps – a line-up of consummate musicians able to go anywhere Cave’s songs go; raucous and delicate, beautiful and ugly, they’re unobtrusively brilliant. The Bad Seeds truly shine in live performance.

Also included is a selection of recent film clips. One of the strangest scenes is the serious booty poppin? in the ?Bring It On? film clip – a stoic Chris Bailey and Nick Cave sing while overwrought Video Hits choreography and costuming attempt to steal the show. It’s a subtle comment – represented ridiculously – on the way the mannered sexuality in his music plays off against the blatant sexuality in much R&B and chart pop. Cave displays in all the film clips here his wicked sense of humour – that strain of self-aware piss-taking that’s guarded his serious side from attack.