The Abattoir Blues Tour (2DVD)

Staying pretty true to his promise, made around the release of 2003’s Nocturama, to increase his productivity rate, Nick Cave has of late become a very busy cottage industry. It seems that barely half a year can pass without the launch of fresh or repackaged Cave product. From 2004’s double-album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, through 2005’s bountiful B-Sides & Rarities boxset, into 2006’s score and screenplay for The Proposition and on to the 2DVD reissue (also in 2006) of the vintage The Road To God Knows Where and Live At The Paradiso tour films, there’s certainly no consumer-slouching for committed Cave fans. 2007 seems set only to accelerate this relentless release rate. Whilst March promises the debut album from side-project band Grinderman (essentially Cave cutting it rawer and looser with regular Bad Seeds players Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos), this month sees the release of a double-DVD set (plus 2 bonus live CDs in the ‘deluxe’ version), mopping-up concert footage from 2003 and 2004, a few promo films and two short documentaries.

Disc one features the main attraction for newer Cave converts who lapped-up the rejuvenated gusto of the aforementioned Abattoir/Orpheus twofer, in the shape of a 76-minute set from the cavernous and fetid indoor-pit that is London’s Brixton Academy. It’s a sharp fulsome performance with a gospel choir quartet augmenting a seven-strong Bad Seeds line-up. Those worried by the departure of mercurial guitarist/vocalist Blixa Bargeld after the largely lacklustre Nocturama, should happily notice the void being filled by adaptable guitar-work from Mick Harvey, voluptuous violin lines courtesy of Warren Ellis and pummelling organ stabs from Gallon Drunk’s James Johnston. Key tracks from <i>Abattoir/Orpheus</i> get a judicious airing for the bulk of the concert’s extracts, with a menacing “Hiding All Away”, a soaring “Supernaturally” and a thunderous “There She Goes, My Beautiful World” being notable highlights. Appreciation for the Bad Seeds back catalogue is however tagged-on somewhat as an after-thought, with a ponderous “God Is In The House”, an emphatic “Red Right Hand”, a run-of-the-mill slide through “The Ship Song” and an expletive-strewn stomp into “Stagger Lee”. Whilst the live footage is well-shot, it’s hard not to shake the feeling that the sound mix is a little too-smooth for a band known for such abandoned aplomb, suggesting that someone was a little too ‘tasteful’ in the post-production tidying-up process.

The second disc is arguably a more fan-orientated affair. Excerpts from an earlier live show in London’s less horrendous Hammersmith Apollo, taped during the Nocturama touring campaign, reveals a more intriguing song selection. Whilst “Wonderful Life”, “Nobody’s Baby Now” and “Bring It On” are fairly obvious choices for latter-day live shows, the suite of rarely performed material should proffer delight and intrigue to more long-serving Cave supporters. Takes on “Sad Waters” and “Watching Alice” revisit the mournful scenes of Cave’s heroin-era balladry, with mesmerising results. Although the peculiar “Christina The Astonishing” was once mocked for its clunky Cave-by-Biblical-numbers narrative, here it seems remarkably reinvigorated. “Wild World”, plucked from the pre-Bad Seeds canon of The Birthday Party, is even stranger still in its epically grandiose re-arrangement. Elsewhere on the disc, there are a couple of interesting but brief behind-the-scenes documentaries for the “Bring It On” video-shoot and the making of Abattoir/Orpheus. Despite a self-confessed reputation for truly awful promo clips, the music video appendices here are actually worth-watching too, though perhaps more for tough-in-cheek entertainment than for high-art value. The “Bring It On” video memorably mocks the ridiculously sexism of the hip-hop mainstream with a waggling gold hot-pants overload but it’s the hilarious and offensive cartoon-like interpretation of the 15-minute “Babe, I’m On Fire” that will tickle the concealed funny bones of Cave fans old and new the most.

Whilst this live and visually-orientated affair is no match for catching Cave and his cohorts on a good night in the flesh (or indeed listening back to 1993’s classic Live Seeds collection), it’s still worth picking-up off the ceaseless Cave conveyer-belt, by devoted followers at the very least.