In Music Reviews

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds headlined Milwaukee for the first time ever on Friday night. (Photo: Andrew Whitton)

In Music Reviews

Although staged at the Milwaukee Theatre, the performance was booked by Peter Jest's Alternative Concert Group.

In Music Reviews

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds played for about two hours Friday night, including a four-song encore.

Cave returns for headline debut in Milwaukee

When Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds took the stage Friday night at the Milwaukee Theatre, it was only Cave's second appearance in Milwaukee -- the first came during a Lollapalooza performance at the Marcus Amphitheater in 1994 -- and the band's headlining debut here.

So, as you can imagine, devotees of Cave -- whose records as far back with the ones made by his band The Birthday Party have inspired deep allegiance -- were more than ready for this long-overdue return.

Although staged at the 4,000-seat Milwaukee Theatre, the performance -- like last year's Leonard Cohen concert and earlier shows by Yanni and Barry Manilow at the same venue -- was booked by Peter Jest's Alternative Concert Group. Earlier in the week Jest told the Business Journal he expected a crowd of about 3,000 and that seems a roughly accurate prediction.

Cave's current tour -- which launched with a gig last weekend at Bonaroo -- is in support of last year's "Push the Sky Away" and the set -- which, including the four-song encore -- ran about two hours -- was a mix of material from that record as well from across Cave's years with the Bad Seeds, which began in 1983.

Of course the focus was on the new record, from which the band pulled the title track, "We Real Cool," We No Who U R," "Mermaids," "Higgs Boson Blues" and the dynamic "Jubilee Street." Though the song was the second of the night, it had the kind of musical drama that most acts would save for a concert closer.

Cave also played early numbers, like 1985's "Tupelo," as well as songs from 1990's "The Good Son," and '97's "The Boatman's Call," among others.

These days, the Seeds are a talented mix of veterans with long associations with Cave. Former Magazine bassist Barry Adamson plays keyboards while ex-Triffid Martin Casey -- who has been with Cave since 1990 -- is on bass. Multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis and veteran drummer Jim Sclavunas (Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, Sonic Youth, The Cramps), who have both worked with Cave since the 1990s --rounded out the group, along with guitarist George Vjestica and keyboard player Conway Savage.

On the sole occasion that I previously saw Cave perform, he was onstage with The Birthday Party at The Ritz in New York City, opening for Britain's Au Pairs in 1981. Cave was in rough shape back then and the gig marked perhaps the only time I thought the band onstage might actually present a threat to the safety of the audience.

In the end, the band -- Cave bloodied from wild antics that culminated with him putting his head through a drum skin -- was compelled to quit for the night and the venue cancelled a second performance scheduled for the same week.

Cave has matured over the years and I expected nothing of the sort Friday night. In fact, in the intervening 33 years, Cave has morphed into an at times introspective, thoughtful, respected songwriter, film composer, novelist and performer, though one that still hoes a dark, gothic row.

Though his passion and flair for drama exhibit themselves in less outwardly disturbing ways in 2014, Cave still gets down into the crowd and puts on a powerful, at times positively incendiary, show. High tensile performances like those of "Stagger Lee" and "From Her To Eternity" were as gloriously cacophonous and intense Friday night as anything The Birthday Party ever notched.

With its mix of aural chiaroscuro, the show was exactly the kind of dynamic blast that kind folks will remember for a good long while.

Opening the show was L.A. female rock quartet Warpaint, which played a 30-minute, five-song set built on the kind of grooves and heavy bass lines, intersected with jagged guitar blasts, pioneered by The Slits.

The songs were good but were rendered a bit samey by a muddy mix.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds set list:

We No Who U R
Jubilee Street
Red Right Hand
The Weeping Song
From Her to Eternity
West Country Girl
Into My Arms
People Ain't No Good
Higgs Boson Blues
The Mercy Seat
Stagger Lee
Push the Sky Away

We Real Cool
The Lyre of Orpheus
Papa Won't Leave You, Henry
The Ship Song


Mr. Mequon | June 21, 2014 at 11:25 a.m. (report)

Okay as a 32 yr old male, I have never heard of Nick Cave? who in the world is that! I am a big music fan and I have never heard of this guy. Apparently he has been around forever since he is 57 and has a large Discography.

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