Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds : Vienna Stadthalle

Vienna welcomes Nick Cave like he's Frank Sinatra or something...

Originally booked for the ornate Libro Music Hall, this gig had to be upgraded to the 12,000 capacity Stadthalle when it became clear how revered Nick Cave is in Austria. Considering he’s lectured at the Vienna Poetry Academy and chaired a week-long workshop there on the love song, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Austrians feel a close emotional connection. But even so, walking into the equivalent of Oasis at Earl’s Court is utterly mindblowing.

The attention as Cave stalks the stage like a Wild West preacher offering salvation in a $2 medicine bottle is rapt, awestruck. Changes in gear and intensity are rewarded with spontaneous bouts of applause, like the crowd is in the presence of Frank Sinatra or Neil Diamond. And when, in the middle of a stormy rendition of ‘The Mercy Seat’, Cave screams [I]”I’m not afraid to die!”[/I], the reaction is tumultuous. It’s amazing, fantastically so.

This is, truly, another world. One where Hear’say don’t exist and Tindersticks-stock is probably a major cultural event. And the Bad Seeds grow into the arena brilliantly, an eight strong gang of angry men, four short of a hanging jury, letting the crashing drama of the melodies provide the thrills as well as any bombastic powerchords. There’s even a ‘Wonderwall’ style singalong for ‘Into My Arms’, as the nation of wine and poetry celebrates their love of dark romance.

Cave, meanwhile, takes it all in his stride, keeping between-song

utterances to a minimum so he can let rip with the songs, sometimes bent double screaming, or else kicking the air with fury. ‘Saint Huck’, a 1983 Bad Seeds classic, is particularly magnificent, the Old Testament passion building to a vicious peak, but the closing ‘The Curse Of Millhaven’ is the runaway highlight. And as fans stream from the Stadthalle, you can still hear some singing the chorus with glee: [I]”la-la-la-la, la-la-la-lie, all God’s children, they gotta die”[/I]. ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ will never sound the same again.

Ian Watson