|MARTYN P. CASEY|
FROM: MELBOURNE / BERLIN / LONDON
Firstly, congratulations are in order to whoever designed The Plenary. Whilst it doesn’t posses a classic architectural charm, it is one hell of place to hear music played. The acoustics are stunning and the band were superbly mixed, allowing all the intricacies of each performance to shine in their due time and every breath of Nick’s vocals were not just heard, but felt by every single person in attendance.
The sensational backing group consisted the regular Bad Seeds rhythm section - Martyn Casey on bass, Barry Adamson on keys, Thomas Wydler on drums and Warren Ellis on everything else. Kicking off with the ominous bass loop of ‘We Real Cool’, one of many cuts from most 2013’s ‘Push The Sky Away’, Nick emerged and instantly immersed himself in the mass of seat-neglecting fans who had formed down the front. At once inclusive and accusatory, he points and jabs at the crowd, throwing a tall thin shadow across the walls of the venue. “You again,” he remarks mid-phrase, recognising a regular, before seeing the song through to its seductive otherwordly conclusion. From here Nick migrated through the many phases of his career. Taking a seat at the piano he accompanied himself through stunning solo renditions of ‘The Ship Song’ and ‘The Mercy Seat’, proving that strength in songwriting alone is powerful enough to manifest critical moments. However it was was with the rest of the band in play that the evening shone the brightest.
Much like the full Bad Seeds experience, this squad of musicians is a fine group of players who perform with such agility that you are never sure where the live arrangements are going next. This is largely due to the fact that they themselves don’t even know. Cues are taken from the tall man up front who alone knows when he wants to whisper and when he wants to shout. Classic cuts like ‘Red Right Hand’ and ‘From Her To Eternity’ flitted from explosive vitriol to broken lament at a heartbeat's notice, and new catalogue additions ‘Jubilee Street’ and ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ have evolved and grown spectacularly since being recorded in the last two years. At one point Nick even snatched a harmonica from the crowd and played out the rest of ‘We Know Who U R’ in a way that no one saw coming, and the melodic ‘Mermaids’ was given a blistering new solo from Warren Ellis’ menagerie of noise-making devices. Almost rivalling St Nick himself for magnetic stage presence, drummer Thomas Wydler emerged as the night’s background hero, performing such incredible feats on his kit that he might have taught the cast of 'Whiplash' a thing or two.
Nick and co. provided an intimate, detailed performance to be cherished. It was a celebratory occasion championing music, legacy and immediate connection that can only be achieved through proximity between fans and performers. By the time the group closed with ‘Push The Sky Away’, everyone in attendance was in compliance with Nick’s assertion that “some people say it's just rock and roll, but it gets you right down to your soul.”