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Nick Cave Curses Smoke Machine Operator at Grinderman's New York Gig Print E-mail
Friday, 12 November 2010

ImageThe ideal place to see Nick Cave would be onstage at hell's sleaziest nightclub. Luckily, he sets that scene wherever he goes, without the need for special effects. "Could you stop pouring smoke out of that f---ing machine, please?" Cave asked Sunday night at the Best Buy Theater in New York City, where he and his current band, Grinderman, were three songs into the fourth show of their fall North American tour.

Whoever was in charge of the venue's smoke machine promptly switched it off, and for the remainder of the group's set, Cave relied on the theatricality built into his music.

Doing so was hardly a gamble. Grinderman is a pared-down, souped-up version of the Bad Seeds, the Aussie singer's longtime backing unit, but in terms of creepiness and combustibility, the quartet shares more in common with Cave's first band, the Birthday Party. Wild-eyed guitarist Warren Ellis sometimes hacks away on a violin, and Cave occasionally trades Telecaster crunch for horror-flick organ, but Sunday night, the group mostly stuck to snarling, squealing, twin-guitar garage rock.

Cave beats Danzig and Damned singer Dave Vanian as rock's most convincing vampire Elvis, and performing songs from Grinderman's two albums -- 2007's self-titled debut and the recently released follow-up, 'Grinderman 2' -- he slinked and prowled like a lunatic lounge lizard. On 'Heathen Child,' he switched from Vegas performer to fanatical preacher, revealing the similarities between those professions. At one point, he was so overcome by the spirit that he tossed his tambourine over his shoulder, nearly whacking Ellis in the face. Neither man seemed to notice.

Cave's commitment to character requires great comedic timing, and throughout the night, the only things deadlier than Grinderman's grooves were its frontman's savagely funny lyrics. During 'Kitchenette,' his attempt to woo a suburban housewife, Cave repeated the line, "I just want to relax," each time growing more frazzled. With 'No P---y Blues,' perhaps the most memorable tune in Grinderman's catalog, he let the sexual frustration boil over. Cursing a girl that "just doesn't want to," he motioned to drummer Jim Sclavunos to slow the verse tempo, delaying the distorted musical explosion that would be his narrator's only release.

Cave caught his breath on the evening's closer, the group's eponymous theme song, speak-singing the phrase he should print on his business card: "Yes, I'm the Grinderman/ seven days a week." That's the trouble with being evil: It's great fun, but you never get a night off.

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