Monday, November 15th, 2010
Grinderman at The Phoenix in Toronto
Frank YangJust in case anyone was uncertain, let it be known – Grinderman are not fucking around. The subset of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds made their North American debut at The Phoenix on Thursday night, the first date of an extensive North American tour, and it’s just as well their set dressing consisted of plastic sheeting draped everywhere like one of Dexter’s kill rooms because shit was flying.
Sound, spittle and fury, Cave and company unloaded it all on the completely sold out room and in the process, made the distinctions between Grinderman and their parent project much clearer than they are on record. As the Bad Seeds’ last visit in October 2008 proved, there’s still plenty of fire in the unit even after 25-plus years. But whereas The Bad Seeds operate with an air of elegance and romance, even at their darkest moments, Grinderman functions as that band’s id, trading in any stateliness for an extra dose of sleazy blues and offering it up with pretty much one setting – in your face.
Opener “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man”, the lead track from this year’s delicious Grinderman 2, set the tone for the night with Cave demonstrating his newfound penchant for guitar abuse – clearly having learned a thing or two from mad scientist bandmate Warren Ellis – whilst rhythm section Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos punished their bass and drums for an apparent lifetime of unforgivable transgressions. That vibe of unchecked id permeated the room, given focus through Cave’s mad preacher figure as he climbed around on monitors, leered at the front row and generally reaffirmed his position as one of the most magnetic frontmen in music, no matter who he’s playing with.
Though unquestionably seedy in tone, the show wasn’t all raunch – midpoint “What I Know” had Cave trading in electric weaponry for acoustic and allowed both Cave, who had sounded occasionally hoarse throughout the show, and the audience, who had been on the receiving end of their unrelenting aural thrust from note one, to take a breather. But that tenderness was more foreplay than anything as it set up the exponentially amped-up triple-punch of “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)”, “Kitchenette” and “No Pussy Blues” and then smouldering set-closer, “Bellringer Blues”. By the time they left the stage, the show hadn’t even run an hour but after that sort of primal one-two, did we really expect to be held afterwards? And yet they had more than a little gas left in the tank, coming back as they did for a five-song encore that included a guitar-led “Palaces Of Montezuma” and yearning “Man In The Moon”. Running half as long as the main set and feeling a good deal moodier, it was an extended coda that acted as a complex and unexpected punctuation mark on a fierce and memorable performance.
eye, The Phoenix and The Boston Globe have Grinderman features while Spin, Chart and The Globe & Mail were also on hand for the show. And Anti- are running a Grinderman photo contest wherein you can be chosen to shoot one of the shows on the tour.
Photos: Grinderman @ The Phoenix – November 11, 2010
MP3: Grinderman – “Heathen Child”
Video: Grinderman – “Worm Tamer”
Video: Grinderman – “Heathen Child”
Video: Grinderman – “No Pussy Blues”
The Guardian is streaming a new instrumental track from Richard Hawley, inspired by a visit to the Glenfiddich whiskey distillery in Scotland. There’s a second such track available to stream at the Glenfiddich website; you just have to pretend you live in the UK to access it. Elsewhere, The Financial Times talks food with Hawley.