Nick Cave began his Southern California concert dressed in black and seated at the piano for “Wonderful Life,” the hope-filled opener from his latest album, Nocturama. But it’s a good thing Mr. Cave never found such lofty human bliss, for if he did, he’d be forced to discard his morbid artistic persona. Regardless, Cave took this performance as an opportunity to notify the crowd that Australia’s gloomiest gus is still gravely with us.
Cave moved around the large Palladium stage in the manner of a swinging – albeit uninvited – member of the Rat Pack. It was strange to see a Gothic icon slinking around the stage while singing in his wounded bear sounding murmur. At times, it was a little bit like watching a member of The Adams Family fill in for Sammy, Dean or Frank at The Sands. Yet, there he was, swiveling his hips, snapping his fingers and waving his hands to the music. Cave’s loose approach turned the accusatory “Red Right Hand” into something like a dark mambo, it was awkward, indeed. But Cave could never write anything for a lounge lizard to sing. As he said during one particular song introduction, many of his songs begin as love songs, before growing fangs.
Those fangs were sharpened and put on display during the desperate plea of “Do You Love Me,” and only grew sharper with older songs like “Tupelo” and “From Her To Eternity.”
The night’s stage mobility brought out the best in Cave’s performance, and such was especially noticeable when the usually torrential “Mercy Seat” fell flat; perhaps, because Nick was at the piano singing it. But even this sour note failed to spoil Nick Cave’s annual dead man’s (swinging) party.
The sweet but sad country harmonizing of Janet Beveridge Bean and Catherine Ann Irwin, collectively known as Freakwater, opened the show with traditional sounding country. Chris Bailey followed Freakwater with a four-song acoustic set, including a version of Johnny Cash’s hit “Ring Of Fire.”