Jan 18, 2009

ATP Festival Australia '09; Sydney

If you are going to curate a festival, then it is probably a good idea to be the star turn. Be the centre of attention. Well, Nick Cave was certainly that and more on Saturday. ATP came to Australia for the first time in 2009 and Saturday at Cockatoo Island was owned by Nick Cave. By far and away the highlight of the day. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds positively owned this day. I was completely and utterly blown away by their performance. It was that good.

I must admit I have never been a huge Cave fan. Sure, I love "The Ship Song" (who doesn't?), but I have found his brand of music sometimes a bit too melodramatic, his voice a bit too much baritone. But in the live setting. Holy hell. The songs are perfectly suited to this arena. They are muscular and fleshy. Meaty. Ecstatic. The Bad Seeds entered the stage, exuding confidence. I think they know their standing in the community. Then Cave enters. Immediately he owns the stage and the audience. We are in drama overdrive. "Night Of The Lotus Eaters" tears into the night air. It's hardly a Cave standard, but it was so good, I was in instant rapture. What will happen when the classics are presented. We didn't have to wait long. "Tupelo" was dark and menacing, swallowing us whole. "The Weeping Song" burned us, whilst "Red Right Hand" crushed us. "Love Letter" saw Cave take a breather as we delighted with a soft piano rendition. But we were soon back into it with an incendiary version of "The Mercy Seat". So much to digest. So much to enjoy. "Deanna" had us rocking and rolling, whilst "Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry" was the perfect closer. Well, we thought it was the end. The band returned to give us a beautiful rendition of "Straight To You" and then a cut throat version of "Stagger Lee". What a performance! The band were great. So talented, so in control. The percussion, two drummers, was unbelievably good and Warren Ellis is probably crazy. This icon, with long flowing beard, was a whirling dervish. But Cave rose above all of this. What a front man. He struts the stage as if he was born there. He never stands still, giving the audience everything. I think I might be a convert. A performance I won't forget in a hurry.

Set List
Night Of The Lotus Eaters
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
The Weeping Song
Red Right Hand
Midnight Man
Love Letter
The Mercy Seat
We Call Upon The Author
Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry

Straight To You
Stagger Lee

Fuck Buttons was the intended highlight of the day. I love their debut album, so I was pretty excited to see them perform. I did enjoy them, although in a limited fashion. They opened with "Sweet Love For Planet Earth" and this amazing song floored me. But after that it became a little predictable. They threw in a new number that was more dance than industrial noise. "Bright Tomorrow was its pulsating self, but I think in the live setting often electronic acts can be feel a little stagnant. Something to be said for a clanging guitar and a barking voice, rather then laptops and wires. Still, I was glad I saw them and they brought down the curtain on my day quite nicely. So, how was my day? A success I would say.

First on the day was Bridezilla. They have been pretty quiet lately, so it was a good opportunity to see them again. I really believe they are one of the most talented bands on the local scene. They played a couple of new songs which sounded great, then they were joined on the last song by acting legend Jack Thompson. That was a surprise. We then caught a bit of Beaches. Not too impressed by them. The music was OK, but the vocals were pretty ordinary. Afrirampo were energetic, but that was about it. Not exactly my thing.

Dead Meadow was next and they were mightily impressive. The three piece from the USA generated an awful lot of power. Their droney style was quite hypnotic. They can really wield the axe and their extended jams were quite appreciated. I think their last song lasted for 20 minutes. Or so it seemed.

Caught a bit of Robert Forster, but was actually a little underwhelmed. He is a legend and "Head Full of Steam" was great, but most of the songs were a little dull. So, it was off to Spiritualized, a band I know only by reputation. I quite enjoyed their set, despite my lack of knowledge of their material. Some of the songs were a little repetitive and I don't find Jason Pierce's voice to have a lot of authority, but the band is obviously talented and it was a good introduction for me. Also caught The Necks and whilst I enjoyed their effort and musicianship, I think their act is a little lost on the festival setting.
So, that was about it.

Some final thoughts.
Forgot the sunscreen, so I got rather sunburnt.
Nick Cave was sensational.
The crowd was well behaved and full of good humour.
The festival was very well run.
Cockatoo Island is a great setting.
I will come back next year.


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