To quote quite liberally from the man’s very own song, on Thursday night at the Sony Centre, God (or in this case, Nick Cave) was in the house! That’s right, a little over a year from their towering Massey Hall performance, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds returned to Toronto to lay waste to the poor unsuspecting Sony Centre. With their most recent album, last year’s Push The Sky Away, still receiving the lion’s share of the band’s attention in the set, some fiery older material was included that had all the look and feel of a Bad Seeds show, circa 1980s or 90s.

Things started innocently enough when Cave and his Bad Seeds took the stage to the strains of a looped drum beat that would evolve into the moody “We Real Cool” and then segued seamlessly into Push The Sky Away’s first single, “Jubilee Street”.  
If the opening salvo was about the quiet new material, the next two were Bad Seeds classics. In the aftermath of the break-up of Cave’s previous band, the hugely influential The Birthday Party, one of the first Bad Seeds songs to make an impression was the raucous “Tupelo”. Heard here on this night, almost thirty years after its original release, the song was just as incendiary with Cave’s vocal refrain of “God help Tupelo” bouncing off the Sony Centre’s walls. The live favourite “Red Right Hand” came next and by this point Cave had the people right where he wanted them.

The rest of the way it was a back and forth set between new material (“Mermaids”, “Higgs Boson Blues”, “Push The Sky Away”) and old (“Red Right Hand”, “The Weeping Song”, “Papa Won’t Leave You Henry”); if it wasn’t aggressive (“Stagger Lee”) it was serene (“Love Letter”).

Any Nick Cave show is a feast for the senses and this one was no different. Cave repeatedly waded into the audience, being helped along as he made his way on the backs of the orchestra level seats. The Australian demanded attention with his singing directly into the faces of his congregation and the way he would hold their hands, as if he was summoning or directing the spirit. When you weren’t watching Cave’s exploits, guitar/violin player Warren Ellis grabbed the attention with his dramatic bowing and violent stabs at his custom-made Fender.

It will take some time before your faithful reviewer will get to witnesses the kind of raw intensity that was on full display on this night. If you ever have even the slightest opportunity to experience the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds live show, then by God, please take it! Put simply: there is no finer live performer!

- Johnny Hooper