Monday, November 15, 2010

Concert Review: Grinderman, House of Blues, November 13

At a point in his career when most of his remaining peers are treading the nostalgia circuit, Nick Cave is attracting sizable crowds for not just new material but a new band that doesn't include his name. Cave has always oozed charisma and put on a great show, but he also has the songwriting chops to engender a continued following. Scaling back from the sprawling Bad Seeds to the stripped down four piece Grinderman has created a boost of energy for someone whose energy wasn't flagging, as seen on Saturday at Boston's House of Blues.

For all of Cave's intensity and command of the stage, this wasn't a one-man show. Guitarist/violinist Warren Ellis, with his stringy hair and beard and demonic flailing looked liked he'd gone nuts after years of solitary confinement in a third world prison. The rhythm section functioned as the band's anchor to sanity.

The band came out and set the stage on fire with the impolite "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man." "Worm Tamer" had the texture of a wire brush. The blues got electric shock treatment with "Get It On." Cave started out playing guitar, but put it aside for a tambourine, which he soon pitched during "Heathen Child." His posture demanded attention, but Ellis was cranking out unearthly sounds. Ellis was down on the floor for "Evil!" but the impassioned delivery still couldn't fully save the song from its weak lyrics.

The band scaled back the intensity for "When My Baby Comes," but Ellis started brandishing his frayed violin bow like a whip and soon was leaving acres of scorched earth in his wake. They came up for a breather with "What I Know" but leaped back into the fire with "Honey Bee (Let's Fly to Mars)." But they stumbled with "Kitchenette;" Cave overstepped the line into self-parody with heavy-handed double entendres and wacky falsetto utterances of "tippy toe, tippy toe." Cave regained his footing as gospel preacher who's now playing for the other team with "No Pussy Blues." During the encore, "When My Love Comes Down to Meet You" was brimming with psychedelic distortion. They wrapped the set with "Grinderman" as the band's name glowed in red on the back curtain.

Cave has shaved off his mustache, no doubt to stay a step ahead of ironic hipsters. The guy knows how to remain relevant.

Set list:
Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man
Worm Tamer
Get It On
Heathen Child
When My Baby Comes
What I Know
Honey Bee (Let's Fly to Mars)
No Pussy Blues
Bellringer Blues


Palaces of Montezuma
When My Love Comes Down to Meet You
Man in the Moon
Love Bomb