By Aaron Light
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds came to San Francisco Sept. 19, bringing their doom and gloom post-punk to a sold out show at the newly reopened Warfield Theatre. In a set that favored their fourteenth and most recent album, “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”, the 51-year-old Cave showed he can still put on a hell of a show.
Dressed in a black suit and sporting a Fu Manchu-mustache, Cave spent the two-hour set letting loose his inner rock messiah as he sang his sex, religion and violence-drenched tales of depravity and madness. Highlights included a ripping version of 1992’s “Papa Won’t Leave You Henry”, an apocalyptic blues version of 1988’s “The Mercy Seat”, and a nasty “Stagger Lee” that closed the set.
Throughout the show, the Bad Seeds proved to be an amazing backing band, creating the base for Cave’s crazed grandeur as they laid down tight rhythms and never once broke character as stoic messengers of death and destruction. Warren Ellis, Cave’s right-hand man, drenched almost every song in waves of brutal noise, conjured up from a heavily distorted Fender Mandocaster.
My only qualms with the show were the sound mix, in which instruments like pianos and bass were lost in favor of the constant noise Ellis emitted from the side of the stage, and the space distancing Cave from the crowd. Even though a barrier kept the crowd about a yard back from the stage, Cave did his best to attack the issue head-on, making as much physical contact with the first few rows as he could.