Live From KCRW
Bad Seed Ltd
In the same way that Cave and The Bad Seeds’ most recent studio album – the wonderful Push The Sky Away – is a dreamy, soft-focus-lighting/sharp-focus-on-the-writing reimagining of the band so too this low-key live document captures this “new” version of the band, playing out a set of favourites and new songs on a day-off to a small audience at the KCRW station’s Santa Monica studios.
It is essentially the live bonus disc you got with some versions of The Best Of – except this time you have to pay for it; it’s released as a standalone, but this set of songs plays complement/compliment to Push The Sky in much the same was as that Royal Albert Hall set did to Boatman’s.
Stripping the bluster away from The Mercy Seat, that rising frenzy that is so often seen as the selling point of the song, means that it can not only comfortably set up And No More Shall We Part, strange palinodes can be seen. There are four songs from Push The Sky and the older tunes seem to fit in well with them – pianos and violins dreamily wafting rather than the corrugated stomp of guitars and drums. The Bad Seeds still the perfectly intuitive backing band, just on subdued setting for this gig. As requested. As required.
The opener is Higgs Boson Blues and it’s wonderful, wry, elegiac, prescient – in fact it’s all the things that Cave doubters say he is not. So it sets up the run-sheet, after Far From Me we have a Stranger Than Kindness that is stranger for sounding kinder, its harsh weirdness gone, it’s more wistful. And it wins as a result.
Jack The Ripper is busted out at the end to a whoop of applause and Cave announcing, “hammer it Jim” but it’s almost pantomime-horror show and it’s ultimately an ill-fit in this company. Oh, it sounds good, it’s a great song, but it just doesn’t seem like the right kind of fire to end with – to end on. Not after Push The Sky’s title track has been the ultimate conclusion (or should have been) to a hypnotic, meditative, calming set of quality pieces.
I say all that and then in the next breath – this one – I’m going to tell you that you really don’t need this. You don’t need it at all. But if you want it then you won’t be let down. Cave fanatics will already have it. Cave sceptics won’t (probably) go near it. He seems to have more haters than he’s ever had these days – and I was nearly among them. But Push The Sky Away arrived right on time. It won me back. This hasn’t done anything for me really. It’s just another live document of the Bad Seeds. They’re a great band. But I’d rather hope to see them play again one day rather than get all excited about just another concert album. It’s good, but I just can’t care a whole lot about it.
No harm done to the legacy, sure. But nothing here that even poses as a momentary revelation.