Not that Nick Cave should be compared to anyone but Nick Cave, but when performing with the Bad Seeds he evokes memories of Johnny Cash; albeit an angrier, louder and more righteous version. When with his side project Grinderman his stage persona becomes unpredictable, dirty and completely captivating.
Grinderman are on a brief UK tour to promote their second album, Grinderman 2, and with all venues sold out there is a huge demand to see the band. This might be surprising to hear as the band were only conceived to assist Cave as he took baby steps to learn the guitar. In the space of two years, to have two albums and to be selling out venues the size of Manchester Academy is a credit to Cave's talents.
Not that the only draw is Nick Cave. With Grinderman Warren Ellis is given more of a free reign than he does in the Bad Seeds to become, essentially, a second front man. He prowls his side of the stage like a mad professor, performing insane experiments on various instruments to see which can make the strangest, loudest noise. At one point he sits on the stage clubbing his guitar pedals with his fist, as if playing a musical version of whack-a-mole.
Starting proceedings off with the first two tracks from the new record, the noise is incredible. The solid and timely rhythm section allows Cave and Ellis to explore and push their guitars to the limits. Three tracks in however for 'Get It On' the audience is accepting of its fate and completely sold. So much so that when the band play the acoustic lead 'Places Of Montezuma' the beautiful subtitles are lost in our tinnitus and it falls slightly flat.
Thankfully Grinderman have a back catalogue of audio hell to unleash and build momentum up to crowd favourite, 'No Pussy Blues'. Cave performs the track's lyrics as if ad-libbing; this humours tale of countless rejections sounds so fresh. Here lies the band's real skill: making the rehearsed and technical sound spontaneous and dangerous.
Grinderman close their set with the self-titled track 'Grinderman'. Reminiscent of the Doors' 'This Is The End', there is a brooding anger building in the down-tuned simple guitar riff. Ellis simply 'plays' the maracas by striking them against a high hat, as if he's representing the darker Charles Manson side of the hippy movement.
By the time the set closes, some twenty minutes before curfew, there is no sense of being short changed. It is not often that a band allows themselves to be pushed to the absolute limit of their talents, work as hard and unconditionally live and breathe their music.