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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

God Is in the House (Live DVD)
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At the beginning of "Oh My Lord," Nick Cave paces the edge of the silent stage much like he did all those years back in the Birthday Party. But in those days, this once-and-future beast punctuated dark lyrical fantasies with Cuban-heeled kicks to the audience. Once his realm is silent, this Cave points a lithe finger at a chosen audience member, his hands stuttering in mock nervousness, and addresses him singly: "I thought I'd take a walk today / it's a mistake I sometimes make." Like many of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' masterpieces, "Oh My Lord" builds over its minutes from piano ballad to the maelstrom twin crescendos of Warren Ellis' violin and Blixa Bargeld's chaotic guitar.

And within that piece -- from Cave's finger-pointing to Bargeld's stoic stage presence and manic guitar work -- lies the genius of the Bad Seeds that God Is in the House seeks to document. Ignore the for-fanatics-only studio documentary and the three tacked-on-for-DVD music videos. God is no more and no less than a 14-swan-song adieu (Bargeld recently quit) to this Bad Seeds incarnation: Cave as the master thespian; Ellis as exaggeratedly egotistical stage hog; Bargeld the Teutonic wild card; the Bad Seeds in general as a band able to draw on the very pretensions of show-band bravado that they mock with gallows humor.

The song selection highlights Cave's newer, piano-based catalog ("Into My Arms," "Lime Tree Arbor"), new arrangements of classics (a slower, scarier "The Mercy Seat") and some oldies I thought the "new" Cave might ignore ("Saint Huck"). Recorded in Lyon, France, the audience is nothing less than awed -- like no other nation, the French adore Cave and his torch-bearers (Tindersticks, 16 Horsepower) -- but still wants for the fire-and-brimstone of a more religiously zealous audience. That said, God's set-ending "Curse of Millhaven," a shambolic self-tribute to the Bad Seeds' chaotic capabilities, yields the speaking-in-tongues reverse-baptism Cave inspires at his best: I can give this disc no higher compliment.

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