Grinderman at First Avenue, 11/23/10

November 23, 2010
First Avenue

"Hey, don't do that on the carpet!" Nick Cave worked those threatening lyrics into a couple different songs on Tuesday night, but that ominous phrase could very well serve as the theme of the entire show, as Grinderman decimated the stage and laid waste to everything in their path during their formidable sold-out set at First Avenue.

The quartet steamrolled the packed house with frenetic, high-energy songs that barely gave you a moment to catch your breath, with Cave prowling the stage menacingly while Warren Ellis coaxed ungodly noises out of whatever instrument he had in his hands at the moment. It was dirty, mean, and a little bit ugly; in short, everything a good rock 'n roll show should be.


The band certainly wasted little time kicking things into high gear, opening their set with the first two songs on their volatile new record Grinderman 2, "Mickey Mouse And The Goodbye Man" and "Worm Tamer," with both tracks seething with a brutal energy. Their savage sound was simply enormous, as bassist Martyn Casey and drummer Jim Sclavunos laid down a grimy rhythm that Cave and Ellis only built upon, paying less attention to anything resembling melody as they did to creating a sonic fury filled with contempt and vulgarity. Other than exchanging a few pleasantries with the swelling crowd, Cave was all business on stage, pacing around over the monitors while singing directly into the faces of those pressed up front. 

"Get It On," "Heathen Child," and "Evil" were thrilling and diabolical, with the band creating a din that was sinfully enthralling. Their music isn't for the faint of heart, let's just put it that way. It speaks to the darker sides of our soul, and that sordid spirit was on display throughout their engaging 90-minute set. The band did take a bit of a breather on "When My Baby Comes," but it proved to be the calm before the storm, as the somber song simply simmered a bit before all hell broke loose at the end, with Cave wailing away on guitar while Ellis destroyed his violin. It was utterly electric.

Cave dedicated a fiery rendition of "Palaces Of Montezuma" to a girl in a wedding dress that has been following the band around the country, pleading with her, "Why don't you take off the dress, dear?" He then proceeded to flap his wings and buzz sadistically into the microphone during a killer version of "Honey Bee (Let's Fly To Mars)" that made it clear he and the rest of the band were having a grand old time up there. And, during the main-set closing triumvirate of "Kitchenette," "No Pussy Blues," and "Bellringer Blues," the band has never sounded better. It was a true sight to behold seeing Cave scream "I just want to relax" at a crowd that wanted to see just the opposite, as he completely lost himself in "Kitchenette," seemingly sampling himself towards the end of the song as he frantically repeated little phrases of lyrics over and over.

Cave also proved to be a master showman during "No Pussy Blues," casually catching a shoe that had been thrown at him and adroitly working "she threw things at me" into the lyrics. The generous four-song encore came just as fast and furious as the main set, with blistering versions of "Man In The Moon," "When My Love Comes Down," and "Love Bomb," a rendition so ferocious that Cave announced "That is the first time in 43 gigs that we've ended that song correctly." And with nothing really left to prove, the band tore into a stirring version of "Grinderman" that closed out the night turbulently and triumphantly. Cave and his band seemed to be sermonizing up there all evening long, recruiting more members into their dark church of depravity. And by the end of a show like this, who wouldn't follow them wherever they lead? Wedding dress and all.

Critic's Bias: I had been patiently waiting for Cave's next performance in Minneapolis, with the epic Bad Seeds show at the State Theater seeming like ages ago now.

The Crowd: Probably just about everyone that was at that State Theater show packed into the Mainroom.


Overheard In The Crowd: "His (Ellis) beard is turning me on." "The whole band is turning me on."

Random Notebook Dump: It really was a treat to see Cave and the band in such an intimate club. They have a sound that could, and should, fill arenas.

For more photos: See our full slideshow of Grinderman shots by Adam Bubolz.


Mickey Mouse And The Goodbye Man

Worm Tamer

Get It On

Heathen Child


When My Baby Comes

Palaces Of Montezuma

Honey Bee (Let's Fly To Mars)


No Pussy Blues

Bellringer Blues

Man In The Moon (Encore)


When My Love Comes Down (Encore)

Love Bomb (Encore)

Grinderman (Encore)