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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Scotiabank Arena, Toronto ON, October 28
Photo: Matt Forsythe
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As the first sombre notes and screeching guitar of "Jesus Alone" emanated outward from the Scotiabank Arena stage, it was clear that everyone would be in for an emotional ride. Neither Nick Cave nor his Bad Seeds disappointed in that department. This was a show that brimmed with heartache, fire and intensity in many forms.
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Cave himself seemed like a conduit for the world's anguish throughout the night. As usual, he spent most of the show looming over anyone near the front, constantly propping himself up on stranger's hands and singing right into their faces whenever he got the chance. This made for an intimate evening. Not that he's ever lacking in intimacy: Cave could have sat in a dark corner all night and the crowd still would've felt connected to the man.
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The proceedings gathered speed, as the Bad Seeds hopped from "Higgs Boson Blues" to the devastating, piano-driven "Do You Love Me?" These were just the steps leading up to the volcano, however. Their performance of "From Her Eternity" will no doubt stick out in many minds as one of the most raucous musical displays anyone's ever seen.
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As Cave kicked and flailed his limbs into a whirlwind of fervour, every band member became a percussionist for that song. Organs were smacked, violins were beaten, and anything unfortunate enough to be labelled a microphone was sent flying across the stage with its wires helplessly trailing behind. When the fireworks of that track finally died down, roadies were left scrambling to clean up the mess, while the rest of the crowd was happily knee deep in it.
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Cave and company kept it going for another short while, with the industrial clang of "Red Right Hand," and then, like a cannonball turning off a light switch, they flipped to the soft, ecclesiastical stylings of "God Is in the House." It's just as well he cooled it down a notch, because any more vehemence and everyone would've been punching their neighbour.
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So, for a while at least, Cave sat at his piano and with not much more than a spotlight, he moulded himself a sullen audience. Until then, no one had mentioned the recent death of Bad Seeds pianist/organist, Conway Savage, but after a couple of sad numbers, Cave said, "This next one's for Conway." As guitarist/violinist Warren Ellis stood up to the mic, Cave added "He would never have let Warren play that flute," and then the band dove into a beautiful version of "Shoot Me Down."
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Cave tore our heart out with "Girl in Amber," dipped it in lacquer on "The Weeping Song," and then shattered it to pieces with the shotgun shell of "Stagger Lee." While playing the latter, he dragged about 30 or so lucky souls on stage to jitter in its tale of debauchery. It was a dirty track. By the time it had burst into silence and kicked back in about three times, everyone was likely feeling filthy as hell.
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Cave and the Bad Seeds dragged us into the mire a number of times throughout the show, but when they played "Mermaids" and "Rings of Saturn" as encores, we were all washed of sin.
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