Friday, March 15, 2013
Concert review: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds shook down McFarlin Auditorium
The moody Aussie rocker is a gothic poet with a mean karate kick.
UNIVERSITY PARK The morbid Australian singer-actor Nick Cave performs in Dallas so rarely – as in practically never – people aren’t sure what to expect.
So when Cave and the Bad Seeds began their explosive show Thursday night at McFarlin Auditorium, the entire crowd stayed seated, as if they’d come to a poetry reading. When one guy finally stood and danced, an usher immediately made him sit down.
Big mistake. “HEY! Can you go away?” Cave bellowed at the usher, staring daggers at him. “Do what you like,” he told the crowd.
Fans in back promptly rushed to the front and clogged the aisles to get a better look at Cave as he karate-kicked and leaped across stage, waving his arms like a crazed faith healer. His music may be the epitome of gothic, but give him a spotlight and he’s more David Lee Roth than Leonard Cohen.
Cave and the Bad Seeds started and ended the show with songs from Push the Sky Away, their fifteenth and newest studio album. “Jubilee Street” was the new standout, a dramatic dirge about a hooker who walks through life dragging “a 10-ton catastrophe on 60-pound chain.”
The mood didn’t get any lighter from there. Cave seethed and snarled through such old classics as “Jack the Ripper,” “The Weeping Song” and his electric chair blues, “The Mercy Seat.” He took a potent side trip into “God Is In The House,” his 2001 mockery of religious revivalists, and his X-rated version of the murder ballad “Stagger Lee” was gangster rap at its best.
Cave’s deep, off-kilter voice is an acquired taste -- like anchovies or lye. But it was in fine form Thursday, as were the Bad Seeds, especially Warren Ellis, who made the songs even creepier, if that’s possible, with his hypnotic violin work.
It was only fitting that Cave’s opening act was Sharon Van Etten, a mesmerizing singer whose haunting folk songs suggest Cat Power on a Fairport Convention bender. The Brooklyn-based Van Etten also owes a debt to Cave, and she introduced a new song by saying a friend told her it sounded like she was “ripping off Nick Cave.” If that’s the case, Cave obviously doesn’t mind, since he brought Van Etten out during his set to sing backup on several songs.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas freelance writer.
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