Nick Cave doesn’t have time for your crap. He has a reputation to uphold, after all – that of the cranky, occasionally combative, vocally stunning and lyrically intense crooner from Australia who has explored songwriting’s dark side in a stately manner for over three decades. Try to take an up-close Instagram of him during his set at The Keswick Theater last night? He’ll shove that iPhone right out of his face and holler at you to put it the eff away. Heckle him? He’ll snap right back at you in a menacing tone. But cheer him on, and Cave is generous with his rewards, as the sold-out house in Glenside found.
The 90-minute set mixed up back-catalogue classics with material from the downtempo (but nonetheless tense) new album Push The Sky Away – “We Know Who U R” was a gentle sing-song opener took a smooth glide into “Jubilee Street.” Cave’s longtime backing band The Bad Seeds worked wonders on this song, rebuilding the simmering album version into a skyrocketing crescendo that was punctuated by Cave’s jack knife thrusts and jerking kicks over the front row. By the end of the song, he was in command of the theater.
“Higgs Bosun Blues” evolved in a similar fashion over eight minutes – he opened his South By Southwest show last week with this one – and by the time it peaked, Cave was warmed up. “Can we start getting these chairs out of here?” he asked of the folks sitting in folding seats in the front row, and as the floor opened up, he plowed into the crowd with his microphone in tow to the violent strains of “From Her to Eternity.” With the mic cable stretched as far as it would go, Cave settled more or less in the lap of an enthralled fan, gripping his collar and screaming the last minute and change of the song into his face.
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