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Review: Nick Cave returns to form with new album, tour

By Peter Wilkinson, CNN
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
Nick Cave remains a mesmerizing spectacle as he prowls the stage. (FILE PHOTO)
Nick Cave remains a mesmerizing spectacle as he prowls the stage. (FILE PHOTO)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds kick off 25-date European tour in his hometown, Brighton
  • Cave on relaxed form as he gives spellbinding renditions of much-loved older material
  • Bad Seeds peerless in switching from quiet to crashingly loud on songs like "Stagger Lee"

Brighton, England (CNN) -- No two Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds concerts are ever alike, which is one of the reasons why the Australian singer remains such a mesmerizing performer well into his sixth decade.

At the intimate Dome theatre in Brighton, southern England, he and The Seeds are on relaxed form as they give spellbinding renditions of much-loved older material like "Nobody's Baby Now," "The Mercy Seat," and "Red Right Hand," and songs from this year's new album, "Push The Sky Away." This album is the first to be released without long-serving guitarist Mick Harvey and marks a more mellow and starker sound than on recent albums.

"The things that we don't understand. They're the best," he says as he launches into "Higgs Boson Blues, a song written before the recent discovery of the so-called "God Particle." The new album also finds him observing the boys on Brighton's beach flirting with the "silly" girls -- it's a real return to form for Cave after some albums of mixed quality, and his best since 2004's "Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus."

Perhaps his garage-rock side-project Grinderman has allowed for a return to more reflective material, but as ever the Bad Seeds are peerless in switching from quiet to crashingly loud on songs like "Stagger Lee," always a highlight of a Bad Seeds gig. The sound and quality of musicianship are both superb and his voice remains both tender and strong, despite his 56 years.

There is no doubting his commitment on this night, the first of 18 concerts of a European tour. Self-assured, almost like a preacher-man David Bowie, he has a magnetic and unique presence on stage. Stick-thin and resplendent in shiny black suit, Cave is constantly on the move, prowling, kicking his long legs high in the air and holding the hands of members of the audience as he alternately croons and screams.

He is in easy-going, crowd-pleasing form, taking requests and seemingly enjoying being back on the road. One recent reviewer memorably described Cave as making "hell on Earth sound as exhilarating as an acid trip at the funfair." Don't miss the fun.

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