“My face is finished,” Nick Cave yelped halfway through Grinderman’s glorious set at Seattle’s King Cat Theater, his voice cracking under the grueling workout he had been putting it through. Cave paused and then shouted, “My voice is finished,” for the song’s reboot. Who says Cave doesn’t have a sense of humor?

The crowd bristled with excitement, black hair dye giving way to grey and baldness. Cave alternated between stalking the front of the stage, pointing and sweating on us, shredding on the electric guitar or letting loose spasmodic explosions on his organ. On stage left, Warren Ellis got lost in the music and his beard, playing a Fender Squier, shaking maracas and lying on the floor and kicking his little feet into the air. On Cave’s other side stood an implacable Martyn Casey, never once smiling, flinty eyes like two cobras piercing the crowd as he punished the bass or took a moment to defy Seattle’s law for smoking indoors. Behind the kit sat the imposing Jim Sclavunos, hammering and hammering in unending fury.

Rocking more fierce than guys half their age, Grinderman put on an electrifying 90-minute set in which they played the entirety of their newest album Grinderman 2 and a pretty damned good portion of the first one. Cave played not a one of his Bad Seeds hits, the storming behemoth of Grinderman swallowing those sometimes more stately songs. The sold-out crowd didn’t give a fuck; even in the typically benign Pacific Northwest you let the assholes who tried to push up to the front at the last moment hear what you thought.

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As Grinderman 2 threatens on home speakers, these are songs meant to be played live. Opener “Mickey Mouse and Goodbye Man” raged and “Heathen Child” alternated between controlled furor and out-and-out rage, a swirling maelstrom of rock malevolence. Even the slowed down “When My Baby Comes” retained the grunge as Cave commanded the bald guy in front of me to “Don’t do that on the carpet,” grinding his hips in his face for good measure.

“I’ve got to get up to get down and start all over again,” Cave and the audience shouted in unison before “Get it On.” “Head on down to the basement and shout/ Kick those white mice and black dogs out/ Kick those white mice and baboons out/ Kick those baboons and all the motherfuckers out,” he screamed before launching into a song that approximates ’70s exploitation cinema and the gates of hell.

Sure, the old songs sounded great live, but the new ones? Like most aging musicians, Cave has turned to the blues, but rather than settle into the genre, he grabs it by the balls and twists, no more so than on new songs “Bellringer Blues” and “Kitchenette.” “I just want to relax!” he shouted over and over again, but whipping himself even deeper in a froth.

It’s a shame we won’t see Grinderman more often. They are not a hungry, young band. But goddamn it if they don’t sure as fuck play like one.

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