This was an impulse buy on Record Store Day. There weren’t any titles that I was dying for, so I didn’t head out early to hit up any of my favorite stores, but yet I still somehow ended up at Silver Platters in Bellevue later that afternoon, like a gambling addict who somehow just sort of ends up at the track. A look through the RSD titles didn’t turn up much of interest, and I flipped right past Live From KCRW the first time through before coming back to it about 15 minutes later. I think I was just jonesin’ to buy something, and this seemed promising – Cave is pretty cool, and this was recorded at a live radio station event in front of only 180 people, so it looked like it could be a promising, intimate performance. And that’s exactly what it is.
I know very little about Nick Cave. We have a few CDs floating around the house somewhere and I’ve probably heard each of them a few times, but there was nothing there that made me sit up and take notice. But Live From KCRW does that right from the opening track, the odd and mildly unsettling “Higgs Boson Blues,” a song that lyrically seems to wander all over the place, almost like multiple stories that were cut apart and told in parallel to one another or like the mysterious Higgs boson itself as it plays it’s quantum “no you see me, now you don’t” game.
While side A is enjoyable, it’s the second side of this double album is where the magic really starts for me. The songs have a lot of depth, showcasing Cave’s emotional voice with slow, deep music, almost like something you’d hear in a church. Side C mixes it up a bit with the nearly flawless “People Ain’t No Good,” a timeless song that could have been just at home in the 1950s and 1970s as it is today. And “God Is In the House”? I’m not normally one for religious songs, but Cave nails this one and even gets the crowd to join in. The album closes out with a frenetic pace in “Jack the Ripper,” an insistent, pounding, desperate song that is a departure from the rest of the album, but serves as an exceptional exclamation point, a reminder that Cave is in charge and he’ll take this thing where ever he wants it to go, even if that means burning the whole thing to the ground.
I never appreciated Cave’s tremendous talents as a singer before. His voice is deep and rich, carrying weight and emotion in equal parts. This live set is sort of that classic moment in time, when the artist, crowd, and venue all come together for that perfect hour where it all clicks. The mood is right. The sound is right. It’s just right. I can’t tell you if Live From KCRW is a good starting point for someone looking to explore Nick Cave’s sound since I don’t know his body of work, but I can tell you that if you like your music a bit on the heavy emotional side, you’ll come away satisfied.