Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, with Warpaint
The Midland, Kansas City
Wednesday, June 18
For the full slideshow from last night, go here.
I believe in love
, Nick Cave sang in "Into My Arms" last night at the Midland Theater, And I know you do too.
This delicate moment came midset, as the 56-year-old Cave was seated at his piano for a few songs, carving out time for the only almost-ballads he would offer during his Kansas City concert. And as Cave staggered through the verses in "Into My Arms," you understood him, every word. I do believe in love
, you thought. I had nearly forgotten, but I do.
It was a feeling of absolute trust that washed over every single audience member last night as Cave blew through his setlist, with cuts from his latest full-length Push the Sky Away
and songs that stretched back into his 30-year catalog. And the tenderness of "Into My Arms" was the rare exception to the rule of that setlist, as Cave preferred instead songs that thundered, cracked and broke surfaces. As his unequalled six-piece backing band the Bad Seeds whipped up a furious, ungodly storm of sound, Cave stood like the mad ship captain sailing his devoted audience through - not promising safe haven, exactly. Perhaps deliverance into the sort of purgatory Cave seems wholly conscious of.
Cave began the evening with the tremulous "We No Who U R," and he brought his spider-limbed body to the edge of the stage as he leaned into the crowd, holding scary-intense eye contact with some lucky fan and probably burning holes into his or her soul. He was dressed in the dark blue pinstripe suit, shiny silver button-up and polished black shoes that is his uniform, bulbous rings on his fingers, looking for all the world like some kind of sleazy 1970s car salesman.
But the only thing Cave was selling last night was emotion, and as he dove into "Jubilee Street," there was plenty of it. Look at me now, I'm transforming
, Cave wailed as the song built up to a fiery crescendo, throwing his entire body into the waves of sound. He jumped onto his piano and pounded with a flourish as lead Bad Seed Warren Ellis tortured his violin. Look at me now
, Cave demanded again as he rose to his feet, as though unaware of his magnetism. The mic stand fell for the first time - it would happen many more times throughout the evening, and a frantic roadie would rush out to untangle the mic cord - and Cave stalked the stage like a predator.
There was no dull moment in the whole of Cave's nearly two-hour performance. During "Tupelo," he was like a dark messiah as he climbed down into the audience to give a warning to the little children about the sandman; dozens of hands pulled and tugged at him as he delivered the nightmarish verse. Cave's black wit in "God Is in the House" was as humorous as it was heartbreaking. In "From Her to Eternity," his voice contorted into a death metal roar. In "Stagger Lee," Cave was downright frightening, screaming away the sordid tale of Stagger Lee.
But while Cave was undoubtedly the center of attention last night, the work of his Bad Seeds - and in particular the pirate-bearded Ellis - was the living, breathing heart that seemed to pump blood into the beast. "Red Right Hand" featured an underworldly instrumental freak-out unlike anything else. Ellis' weeping violin solo was, of course, on point in "The Weeping Song." And the elegant flute notes that he made soar in "We No Who U R" and "Push the Sky Away" cast ghostly shadows on the wall.
But perhaps Cave's greatest strength - more so than his showmanship or his utter devotion to his craft - comes in his ability to transform his songs into stories and beyond. I am not afraid to die
, Cave insisted quietly at the beginning of "The Mercy Seat," playing the part of a Death Row convict facing the electric chair. But by the end of the song, that statement was a bellowed mantra, increasingly frantic as Cave absorbed his role, ending with a howling twist: But I am afraid I told a lie
Cave chose to end his set with a truth, though. Some people say it's just rock 'n' roll
, he sang solemnly in the searing "Push the Sky Away," But it gets you right down to your soul
. The Midland audience exploded with agreement.
We No Who U R
Red Right Hand
From Her to Eternity
The Weeping Song
Into My Arms
God Is in the House
The Ship Song
Higgs Boson Blues
The Mercy Seat
Push the Sky Away
Papa Won't Leave You, Henry
For more photos, go here.