Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, NYC, October 4, 2008

The Nick Cave show had all of the subtlety of watching a bear eat a kitten. It was a fantastic, noise-laden journey into the darkest depths of our collective psyche. It was terrifying and surreal, like taking acid and jumping out of a hot air balloon with only a torn strap as a bungee. Cave and the Seeds attacked with a fury few “modern” bands can even imagine, let alone emulate.

The venue was shit and so was the crowd, which only seemed to anger Nick Cave and cause him and the band to play louder and with more doom. The WaMu Theater at MSG should probably be bombed for its rancid ugliness. It looks like something that belongs in an early 1970s casino in Vegas; white walled and glitter lights, cavernous and hollow. And the crowd, most seemingly stunned into a catatonic state by the total collapse of their economic system and the impending implosion of their city, barely moved and certainly didn’t dance while Cave lashed at them from his dark podium. Looking around me I saw the mixture of cookie-cutter weirdo’s and fashionable hipsters and felt sad for the state of the City. They certainly looked the part of a Nick Cave audience, yet something was missing. It was as if the soul of the place had been torn out and replaced by a jagged amount of technology and a sense of complete failure. NYC was once the home of the truly bizarre, a place where someone like Nick Cave would almost blend in. Now, at least in Manhattan, it’s a tourist destination filled with fashionistas and posers.

Which is why my associates and I felt that Cave should have played somewhere a bit more real, like the Bowery or some garbage strewn alley filled with junkies. But, he did transcend the setting and the crowd, at least for those of us who were paying attention. With the amazing Bad Seeds behind him like a gang of 1880s bank robbers, Nick Cave strolled up to NYC and kicked it squarely in the nuts. He then laughed as it fell to its knees and brought out such a crazy version of Stagger Lee that I nearly fainted, ears bleeding, eyes running. By the time they played We Call upon the Author to Explain, I was completely insane. Watching Warren Ellis crawl and scrabble around the stage like some sort of well-dressed werewolf filled me with such darkness that the only thing I could see was the light. Gasping and screaming, I opened my eyes to see Nick Cave, tall and crooked like a broken cross, kneeling upon my chest, his terribly long and dark mustache dragging across my pelvis like a genetically mutated hairy caterpillar. In his left hand he held a torn and dirty Bible, while he grasped a rusty lightning rod in his red right hand. His eyes lit with brimstone, glowing blue and fierce like ball lightning on a dry prairie evening, his mouth opened wider than humanly possible, like some sort of huge man-shaped snake. His tongue was coal black and his huge white fangs stained with blood as he moved towards me, emitting a sound not unlike an assembly of snake-handlers on a deserted Delta swamp road.

And then it was over. It’s amazing what you can hear and see when you pay attention. The crowd departed and made their way back to their fashion sense. My friends and I stumbled blindly from the venue and made our way to a free music club. There we sat; numb and wanting, filling ourselves with whiskey justice, trying to remember if the show we had seen was real. Eventually we hopped a cab and were hurled through the night towards Brooklyn. As we sped through the City streets, I saw out of the corner of my eye a strange and wonderful sight. It looked like a man—or maybe it was some sort of dog for it ran on all fours—and wore a fine suit. It was surely hairy and dark and appeared to be carrying a cat’s carcass in its mouth and a violin strapped to its back. I only saw it for a split second but I knew immediately that it was Warren Ellis. Nick Cave would not be far behind.