Seeing Nick Cave for the first time is like having Good Sex for the first time. After the mournful loss of ones virginity, sat twiddling your thumbs for the greatest fuck of your life, it comes at you when you least expect it, sometimes beautiful, often painful, but completely worth every minute you sat waiting around for it.
It begins with the foreplay. Or, often known as the Support Act.
Namely, the Hunter Gracchus who originate from Sheffield, my hometown. At first they were interesting and ones eyes lit up at seeing a young girl with a saxophone strapped round her neck. But pretty soon she dismantled its head and started created agonizing sounds with said sax head, and also made child-like squeals and yips not too dissimilar to a strangled puppy. The first few minutes were enjoyable but then it just seemed to stretch on far too long without any pause for applause, which thinking back makes me wonder had they paused, would they have been serenaded by cruel boo’s and fear of embarrassment would explain the lack of pause? I have to give them credit though, it was pretty different and acts as a basic distraction for the onslaught of what you know is coming.
So you wait, and you fiddle some more, and perhaps go for your third or fourth pint of the evening, which considering the lack of food in ones belly, proved a pint too far and rendered me speechless and hopeless the moment The Man Himself walked out onstage.
The whole venue erupted like something out of Jurassic Park, shook the very ground and immediately my churning nervous tummy that I’d had for the past week leading up to the Grinderman gig, evaporated into thin air, replaced by screams I didn’t know I was capable of making.
The music was superb in its quality, every cymbal crash, every shake of a maraca and every throb of the bass guitar could be clearly heard and distinguished amongst the chaotic and scrambling sounds coming from Cave’s guitar. Also to add to the throng of invasive sound was Warren Ellis’ tortured violin melodies, perfect in every way and reminded me a little of the late great Rowland S. Howard’s guitar skills, trembling nihilistically over a then very young Cave’s lyrical grunts and groans of The Birthday Party.
Cave is still very energetic, considering the toils he has willingly put himself through all his life (again, google The Birthday Party if you’re curious) Kicking his long spider-like legs high into the air, crashing into drum kits, knocking instruments over, dropping guitars and seemingly intent on strangling someone with his microphone chord, if not himself, with the feverish madness he seems possessed with, it’s a wonder I escaped with just the bruises from the crushing swell. To speak of the sea of people all clambering for a glimpse of Grinderman and in particular, Cave’s hand, which he so tantalisingly dangled like the proverbial carrot just out of reach of ones hand, is to speak of a throng of worshippers desperate to touch Jesus. And we all know how obsessed Nick was and presumably still is, with JC.
Personally speaking, I almost reached a private climax when Cave did indeed reach out and grab my hand several times, and I almost wept as he pointed that infamous point, staring straight into my eyes and announced into the mic “This next song is Worm Tamer, and its dedicated to you!” Reading the lyrics, I see the man has me sussed which isn’t hard to do as I recall sucking my thumb at him through the duration of “Heathen Child” which will make sense if you too read the lyrics.
At one point though, I must admit I pulled The Man accidentally into the gathering storm of crazy people at the Manchester gig and, when he saw me again at the London gig, did point at me and go “oh, it’s you!” Another one for the happy mind bank.
After raucous cheers of applause and demands for an encore, Grinderman ended their set with the fitting song “Grinderman” their dark humorous take, I presume, on an original called “Grinderman Blues” by Memphis Slim. Starting slow and gentle with a repetitive string sound, Nick raises his long thin arms to the air and announces in that clear recognisable voice “Im the Grinderman” building the song steadily towards its ultimate thunderous end, with Warren violently attacking cymbals with maracas, dancing like a demon and bringing images of a stark raving mad Rasputin to the fore, Jim Sclavunos beating every last breath of hell out of his (pink) drum kit and Martyn Casey, although constantly looking slightly bewildered, delivers end-of-the-world bass tremors. But of course, as always, it is Nick whom all eyes in the venue are on as he beats the side of his leg with the mic, flailing those ever thinning limbs of his, screaming until I thought his vocals would split in twain “YES I AM YES I AM YES I AM YES I AM” and, in my opinion, SHIT ALL OVER The Bad Seeds “Tupelo.”
And that is one hell of a song, too.
Although it is difficult not to compare Grinderman to The Bad Seeds for good or bad, they really are incredible as a separate entity, being far from The Bad Seeds both musically and especially lyrically. I never thought Id hear Nick Cave sing “Come on and check it out”, so different from oh, say Papa wont leave you, Henry, from the album Henry’s Dream: “I though about my friend, Michel
How they rolled him in Linoleum
And shot him in the neck
A bloody halo, like a think bubble
Circling his head”
And it turns out Nick Cave has indeed allowed his ego and swagger to evolve and mutate until it becomes clear to me that he is now indeed a rock star, a very well respected and often considered legendary rock star, a term I would never have used until recently, when describing Nick. Not that it’s a bad thing because I say, if you can while you’re able, why the fuck not?
Grinderman have two albums out currently and you’re a pussy if you don’t own either one.
By Lauren Marie.