There is little to say about Nick Cave that hasn’t been written about already over the past 35 years. He is one of the most diverse and versatile musical artists to ever write, perform, and record. The Australian-born songwriter began as the lead in the Birthday Party, a post-punk group that found influence in David Bowie and Lou Reed, and wrote about the Gothic, the strange, and deranged.
After the Birthday Party’s dissolution in the mid-80s, Cave continued on to front the Bad Seeds, expanding into folk, Americana, murder ballads, and whatever other musical vessel makes sense for the obscure and weird characters Cave creates. 2004’s Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus is a masterpiece of lyrical folk, baroque pop, piano-led blues, swaggering balladry, gospel, anthemic epics, and more, an album that is simultaneously vast and cohesive. And then to blow it all away, Cave founded the band Grinderman with long-term collaborator Warren Ellis, returning to his roots of post-punk, drilling noise, and feedback. More recent albums like Push the Sky Away return to a softer sound, and last year’s Skeleton Tree was written during the death of Cave’s son.
Sixteen albums, multiple books, and soundtracks in and the 59-year-old sees no sign of slowing down. I feel guilty reducing this bizarre and surreal and unique career into a few hundred words. And while a two-hour performance on Friday night won’t cover everything he’s ever done, it’s going to be damned near the closest thing you can get to hearing so much of what the esteemed musician has accomplished over the past few decades. Like most of the best music, there is a deceitfully simple sound to the best of Cave’s work. It seems natural, organic, even when it’s noisier or dissonant, and even a song like “Nick the Stripper” can find itself comfortably side by side the melancholy “Abattoir Blues.”
The Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University was designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan and is a national historic landmark, considered one of the most perfectly acoustic theaters ever designed. While part of me really wants to see Cave in the dingiest of bars on the dirtiest of avenues, I will also appreciate seeing him perform all of his noise, his soul, his blues on the stage at this 126 year old theater. Tickets are still available on the Auditorium Theatre’s website.