Let Me Entertain You: Grinderman @ 9:30 Club 11.16.10

I’ve finally made up my mind: when I grow up, I want to be Nick Cave. I’m fully aware that that particular position is currently filled, but it’s still a dream worth dreaming. Though commercial success has largely eluded him (mostly for some very obvious reasons), Cave has taken his decades-long career in directions that artists half his age wouldn’t dare. After twenty years with dramatic rock titans The Bad Seeds, Cave recruited half of that band for a raw and grimy garage project: Grinderman. With the release of Grinderman 2 in September, the group has become a full-on commitment rather than a thrillingly messy diversion. The Bad Seeds tour plenty (and put on damn great concerts when they do), but Grinderman shows offer a look into Cave’s more primal, blues-inflected side.

The other thing about the world of Nick Cave is his devoted fans. I’d guess that most of them want to be Cave when they grow up, too. A mix of revival punks and folks who stole away from the library to see the show, the crowd at DC’s 9:30 Club was brimming with excitement over the return of their literate leader. I gathered from several loud conversations that many of the people standing around me also made the trip from Philadelphia (as the tour regrettably skips Philly this time around). No matter, as Cave’s fans tend to be good enough sports to go out of their way for a night in his aura.

A well-received opening set from haunting harmonium wailer Shilpa Ray started the night with in an evocative mode. Grinderman took the stage and tore into the first two songs from Grinderman 2, “Mickey Mouse And The Goodbye Man” and “Worm Tamer.” By then, Cave had already worked up a sweat and set out to work up the audience. Rushing back and forth between the stage, Cave often found himself perched atop the metal barricade, grasping the head of an equally elated and frightened fan. The tunes from Grinderman 2 have a more composed and developed quality than those from the band’s first album, though all the songs held up strongly through the night. Some of Grinderman’s highlights, including “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)” and “Get It On,” gave the set an instability as multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis crafted sheets of distorted low-end noise with his various implements. The rhythm section offers less erratic behavior, but Martyn Casey’s unsettling basslines and Jim Sclavunos’ thunderous drumming underpin each song with a sinister menace. The band’s song “Grinderman,” which came during the encore, lurches with particular dread, eventually becoming a deafening freak-out.

Seeing Nick Cave perform is, on its most basic level, incredibly entertaining. When not clutching fans’ heads, he’s dedicating “Evil” and “Palaces Of Montezuma” to people who catch his eye, sending papers flying from a knocked-over music stand, and making himself laugh when he arrives a rare loss for words. He did most of that when I saw the Bad Seeds a few years ago, but it’s just as fun with Grinderman.

Though I do kinda miss the mustache.

Click the picture at the top of this post to see more pictures of Grinderman in concert!!

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~ by E. on November 17, 2010.

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