Nick Cave and the bad seeds with neko case at Kool Haus, April 28. Tickets: $26.50. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNNN
after the last couple of bad Seeds sleepwalks through town and Nick Cave's dire studio output of late, expectations for a scintillating display were at a rock-bottom low last Sunday. That this makeup show for a cancellation last September was going down in the acoustically challenged Kool Haus didn't make the prospects any better for the men in black.
Sometimes miracles do happen, as the Bible-quoting Cave would concede, but more likely the stunning vocal performance by opener Neko Case -- tastefully backed by Jon Rauhouse on pedal steel and upright bassist Tom Ray -- raised the stakes for Cave, who's always been self-conscious about his own singing abilities.
From the moment he lurched forward to yank the microphone off the stand like he was drawing a dagger from a dying man's back, it was clear that Cave was in rare form.
Moving slowly back and forth across the front of the stage, the scissor-legged Cave sized up the crowd while warming up with a couple of sombre numbers before turning up the heat with a menacing Red Right Hand.
Though confrontationally dazzling, it was all just part of a well-played buildup to the cataclysm of Papa Won't Leave You Henry. While the Bad Seeds pounded to a crushing climax, Cave began violently thrusting his crooked body into each exclamatory phrase, causing the people up front to jerk back for fear some body parts might come flying off .
As soon as the drama subsided, he was back at the piano for another tender murder ballad, to begin working up to the next bloody blast. The spellbound crowd wouldn't move without a second encore, which Cave kindly obliged with a fire-breathing take on the rarely performed St. Huck.
It's doubtful anyone would've complained if he'd returned for a third.