It began, appropriately enough, with a plea for darkness. Nick Cave may have opened his SXSW set in the twilight hours, but if anyone could will the night into being, it's the black-clad Australian star.
After opening with "Higgs Boson Blues" — a circuitous dirge from Push the Sky Away, Cave's new album with his co-conspirators in The Bad Seeds — the singer got his wish, having seemed to squelched the light purely on the strength of his own slow-burning, strangely seductive menace. By the time he reached the new "Jubilee Street," he found the fresh night sky to his liking, heralding its arrival with "a dark song" — as if that would differentiate it from the others.
Backed by the soaring rumble of his band, Cave worked the Stubb's crowd like a revival preacher at half-speed — larger than life, yet intimately aware of both the gutter and the grave — which only made the pulverizing power of songs like "From Her to Eternity," "The Mercy Seat," a wildly profane "Stagger Lee" and a piano-pounding "Jack the Ripper" that much more bracing. Fifteen albums into his career, to say nothing of the side roads he's taken in Grinderman and beyond, Cave knows how to tease, cajole and incite a crowd; via pantomime, and with an ad lib in the middle of "Red Right Hand," he even took a few well-chosen moments to taunt a prolific text-messager near the front row.
Mixing the old and the new, seething restraint and vein-bursting effort, Cave spent his hour of darkness — recorded live at Stubb's in Austin, Texas, on March 14 — keeping his huge crowd at rapt attention. For Cave to notice a single person staring at a phone, in a music-industry crowd of this size, speaks volumes about his eternal ability to control and enthrall.
- "Higgs Boson Blues"
- "Wide Lovely Eyes"
- "Jubilee Street" (included on video)
- "From Her To Eternity" (included on video)
- "Red Right Hand"
- "Jack The Ripper"
- "The Mercy Seat"
- "Stagger Lee"
- "Push The Sky Away" (included on video)