The trouble with studio albums is they don’t always capture the essence of a band in the flesh. In the case of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds it’s a point that’s amplified by their blistering outings in support of album number 15, Push The Sky Away. For a band whose integral parts have each passed a half century in years, there are few more beseeching, emotionally raw and darn right beautiful acts currently plying their trade.
It feels apt, then, that Cave and co are bookending a successful 2013 with a living, breathing document of their current vintage. Recorded at Apogee Studio in L.A., Live From KCRW doesn’t just represent the band’s here and now; it retreads and reworks a back catalogue more powerful and burgeoning than any modern day equivalent’s. In fact, so aware is Cave of this sonic goldmine, he teases the audience by taking requests, before admitting he’ll only play songs on “this very short list here”.
As a recording, Live From KCRW is the band at its most reflective. ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ is smoky and brooding, weaving a seductive sense of menace through its tragic guitar creeps. The ethereal notes of ‘Push The Sky Away’ extend the melancholic pattern, somehow trumping the original recording’s meditative lament, while Cave baritones “And some people say it's just rock 'n' roll/ Aw, but it gets you right down to your soul.”
The intimacy of the recording is quite something. ‘People Ain’t No Good’ and ‘Stranger Than Kindness’ radiate tender beauty , each underlining the deep intuitive space each musician operates within. And the remodelled majesty of ‘Mercy Seat’ - impregnated by skeletal piano and Warren Ellis’s barbed wire string work - proves that even a stone cold killer can be brought warmly to the bosom.
Ultimately, Live From KCRW is the personable side of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. And, while the appearance of ‘Jack the Ripper’ is a rip-roaring atomic bomb amidst these supple paeans, it’s a record that showcases a band comfortable at the peak of its powers. Thirty years on, they remain an astonishing