I tried my damnedest to witness Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds when I headed to Texas for South by Southwest, back when the band had just released Push The Sky Away. Being the festival virgin I was and having the naiveté to show up to a concert on time, I was turned away at the door as Stubb’s was up to capacity for the evening. I wasn’t necessarily disappointed (SXSW had so much other music happening), but a little part of me really wanted to see the rock music legend in his intense glory. I wanted to be surrounded by people in a place so unfamiliar to me, to unleash myself into the hoards of attendees and be the freak I wanted to be with the gothic punk man and his bad seeds ready to treat me to a night of emotional fury.

Four years later, I see them at The Act Hotel downtown, and I’m immensely happy I waited. Their latest album, last year’s Skeleton Tree, is one of Nick Cave’s most lyrically heart-wrenching records to date in a songbook of so many heart-wrenching moments, and that this show featured such songs of overwhelming gravity gave me chills, in a way that existential realization might make you “see the light,” in fear and accepting of it. Fate had it for me to see him this very night instead of before this moment.

In addition to the new album, the band also recently released the compilation album Lovely Creatures, which mainly features selected singles and tracks from Cave’s discography between 1984 and 2014. Those thirty years saw many influential tracks such as “From Her To Eternity,” “Tupelo,” “Red Right Hand,” “Into My Arms,” “Stagger Lee,” and “Jubilee Street,” all of which saw live performances in a set that lasted just over two hours.

Given the cathedral-like nature of The Ace Hotel, it certainly felt like The Church of Nick Cave, as his dapper minstrel self acted as evangelist, reaching into the crowd with his might, fists in the air, and staring into the souls of those seated in the orchestra section. In subtler moments, he would sit at a center-stage grand piano, which was just as electrifying as his bandmates performed around him. A backdrop screen was also sometimes utilized, particularly for songs off of Skeleton Tree, which were effective visual cues into the album’s dourness, even incorporating Else Torp’s solo vocal performance on “Distant Sky” to up the eerie factor.

It managed to be the Nick Cave concert I wanted it to be and then some. His raging id was all over that stage, performing tracks from most of his back catalog with pitch-perfect vibrance and then tackling Skeleton Tree to push it over the edge. His backing band were also in top-notch shape, but that should be a given – this is an orchestrated band of divine powers, having performed for well over three decades now. Not much more needs to be said about a performer who’s seen it all, and his display of birth to rebirth and all of life’s suffering and growing in-between is just something that has to be witnessed by any fan of music. Legend he is.

The Ace Hotel also hosted a special photo exhibition upstairs called the “smoking” room, dedicated to the many years of Nick Cave (often seen posing with cigarettes). The photographs were well-displayed in no particular fashion, though it was interesting seeing the transformation of the man after more than thirty years in the business. They also had previously-released films on a television set and bubble-gum packaged in cigarette containers, adding to the intrigue.

More info:

http://www.nickcave.com