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In concert: Grinderman at 9:30 Club

By David Malitz

grindermanNick Cave and Grinderman were up to no good in the best way at 9:30 Club. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

Nick Cave is not an evil man. He just plays one on record. And on stage. And in the film scripts he writes. And in his novels, too.

OK, so maybe the lanky, lewd, 53-year-old Australian has some dark forces working within him. Grinderman, a recent diversion from his more stately, long-running goth-post-punk band the Bad Seeds, indulges all of Cave’s most primal, evil urges. At a sold-out 9:30 Club on Tuesday night the quartet played nearly 90 minutes of raw and raunchy songs that gurgled and lurched before inevitably erupting into noisy melees of howls and squelching guitars. It was the sound of a band seemingly conceived at the most chaotic moment of the Rolling Stones infamous Altamont concert and it made for a uniquely thrilling night of rock-and-roll.

There is not much subtletly at work with Grinderman. Song titles such as “Heathen Child,” “Evil!” and “No [Expletive] Blues” set the scene pretty clearly. Cave, of course, is one of rock’s most gifted lyricists and is as humorous as he is harrowing. “I sent her every type of flower/I played her a guitar by the hour/I petted her revolting little Chihuahua/But still she just didn't want to,” he hissed on “Blues,” perhaps the best of approximately a million sequels to the Stones’ “Satisfaction.” He spewed lines, frustration growing with each verse before the eventual climactic burst of noise. Even if most of the songs followed a similar formula, it never felt like a crutch.

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Just as crucial to the Grinderman experience is guitarist and violinist Warren Ellis. He also plays in the Bad Seeds and has become a sort of inverse manifestation of Cave’s persona. Cave is tall, clean-cut, with same slicked-backed black hair he's had for decades. On Tuesday he wore a finely tailored black suit and moved around the stage with a slithering grace.

Ellis stood stage left, a mess of scraggly hair and endless beard, wearing a half-tucked-in striped shirt punctuated by unbuttoned, rolled up cuffs. Cave expresses himself in dynamic verse with the charisma of a preacher; Ellis doesn’t use words, instead attacking his guitar and violin and making those instruments moan and squeal, creating truly terrifying bursts of noise. During “Evil!” he writhed on the ground, triggering sound loops and occasionally reaching the microphone to shout the song’s title hands flailing in the air. The man even managed to make a maraca sound sinister.

But it remained Cave’s show. If Ellis seemed lost in a trance, Cave was always in complete control whether playing guitar, organ or ditching instruments and simply stalking the stage. His recent renaissance -- the two Grinderman albums and 2008’s equally vicious Bad Seeds offering, “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!” -- finds him at the peak of his powers, and a show like Tuesday’s leaves one wondering if he now fronts two of the world’s best live bands. This all from someone who should be entering his twlight years. It’s almost enough to make you think he’s made some sort of deal with … well, you know who.

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By David Malitz  | November 17, 2010; 2:24 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags:  Grinderman, Nick Cave  
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Comments

Excellent write-up! This was a great show.

Posted by: mdarpino | November 17, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Also, the pictures really capture the atmosphere of the show, one of the best I've seen this year.

Posted by: MyPostID27 | November 18, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

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