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Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

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Getting sucked into the whirlwind of furious misery created by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds has long required a certain suspension of disbelief--the darkness tends to be so melodramatic and all-encompassing that Cave can come off as a caricature of the tortured artist. I could never bring myself to join the ride until Cave's most recent album, Nocturama (Anti/Mute). On gorgeous ballads like "Wonderful Life" and "He Wants You," his dolorous moan glistens with an emotional coloration you might almost call soul. And on fiercely chugging juggernauts like "Dead Man in My Bed" and especially "Babe, I'm on Fire"--all 15 minutes and 43 verses of it--Cave and his Bad Seeds rekindle the flaying intensity of the Birthday Party days while focusing their mayhem more deliberately. Every cycle of "Babe" seems to intensify as the band aims its bellows into the inferno--the song doesn't climax so much as disintegrate. Most of these songs chronicle and lament good old love gone wrong, and while there's no shortage of agony there's also some welcome humor. In "Dead Man in My Bed," the tale of a moribund marriage, a wife tempers her misery with some wry amusement: "Now she's in the kitchen, rattling those pots and pans / I'd cook him something nice, she said, but he refuses to wash his hands / He used to be so good to me, but now he smells so fucking bad." Yet Cave is more often cuddling up to sadness with a poetic tenderness. "Speak our secret into your hands," he sings in "Wonderful Life," a song about forbidden love, "And hold it in between / Plunge your hands into the water / And drown it in the sea." Shannon Wright and Chris Bailey (the former singer for Australian punk legends the Saints, who duets with Cave on "Bring It On") open. Saturday, June 21, 8 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State; 312-443-1130 or 312-902-1500.

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