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Nick Cave gives Europe the 'Abattoir Blues'

By CNN's Peter Wilkinson

Cave: Finger-jabbing good

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Australian doom merchant Nick Cave and his band the Bad Seeds head to Europe this week after a triumphal UK tour promoting their latest album, which is reported to be selling faster than any before it in their 20-year career.

They play a short series of gigs in major European cities to showcase "Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus," and on the basis of Friday's concert in London these dates are worth catching if you want to see a unique performer at the peak of his powers.

Blending Cave's visceral vocals, a four-voice gospel choir and the Seeds led by long-standing sidekick, guitarist Mick Harvey, the band give a spellbinding performance let down only by the disappointing acoustics of the high-ceilinged Brixton Academy.

Prowling the stage like a "demented whisky-priest," as one reviewer described him, Cave seemed out to prove that domestic tranquility in the southern English resort of Brighton had not detracted from his work.

The first half of the show, comprising material from this year's excellent double album, was warmly received with the singles "Nature Boy" and "There She Goes, My Beautiful World" set to become future Cave classics.

The energy levels throughout the 2 1/4-hour concert were phenomenal: leading the band in an unlikely clapalong during "Supernaturally" while dancing in his extraordinary way, the former Birthday Party frontman puts the many forty-somethings in the audience to shame. And it's a wonder how his cigarette-hardened voice lasts the course.

After a brief interval, the band really come alive with older songs such as "Stagger Lee," "Deanna," "The Red Right Hand" and closing with "The Mercy Seat."

The latter song, from 1988's "Tender Prey" album, is greeted with rapturous applause that lies incongruously with the subject matter of murder, death row and damnation; Cave always did do downbeat ones in the most upbeat way though.

A fabulous performance then, and judging by postings following the Paris concert on Monday, one that is being repeated across the continent. If you can get hold of a ticket, don't miss out.

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