Recorded in between sets at this year's Coachella Music Festival in a small studio at the Los Angeles radio station KCRW, Live From KCRW is the fourth live album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to date, and possibly one of their most daintily crafted too. The album consists some cuts from songs from Push The Sky Away, the group's most recent album, and a handful of old works, with Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey, Jim Sclavunos and Barry Adamson opting to keep things a little more simple and a little less intimidating than their live shows can be.
Nick and his Bad Seeds aren't the kind of band to just throw together a live album to cash in on the Christmas rush though and this is the case with KCRW, a thoughtfully put-together live album that works with the new material some of the group's finest back catalogue material, including 'The Mercy Seat', 'Stranger Than Kindness' and 'Into My Arms,' rather than rehashing the same stuff.
Bar the applauses at the end of the tracks and the odd bit of banter to and from the stage, it doesn't really sound like your conventional live album. The audience is audible, and when they do chime in they only ever seem gleeful and amused, but their remarks never take anything from the quality of the recording or the performance. Its much cleaner and more focused on the material at hand than the band's other live albums tend to be, which sometimes get lost trying to recreate the rawness of a Bad Seeds live performance. But there's an intimacy to the album that couldn't have existed outside of a live album, one that no doubt mirrors that same intimacy the lucky few who were crammed into KCRW's studio must have felt during the performance. This closeness is demonstrated by the stripped back performances at hand, an antithesis of the cluttered front cover of the album. On the cover we see Cave surrounded by flight-cased equipment, equipment that you can barely hear in the final product, and all the better for it.
It's not just the stripped back approach used by the band that marks Live From KCRW apart, but how laid back it all seems as well. Rather than a live album in the MTV Unplugged vein, it sounds like five good friends kicking back in front of a group of people and showing off just how talented they are. Here's a hint at how talented they are: they're all really talented.
Push the Sky cut 'Higgs Boson Blues' sounds more airy here than it does on the studio album, with Cave breathing hauntingly over the ghostly drag of Warren Ellis' guitar. Here, on the first track alone, we hear what illuminates the album most of all: the vaporous coos from Ellis, Sclavunos and Adamson and the floating chords from Adamson's organs. On 'Far From Me' the organs shine once again, whereas on 'The Mercy Seat' it is Ellis' lonesome violin that evokes more emotion than any forlorn reference from the song's doomed protagonist could.
It's moments like these that really mark the album apart from your average live recording and makes Live From KCRW worth your listening time. This is my no means a spot-on re-enactment of a typical Bad Seeds show, this is a portrait of the band at their most open and most amenable, an improvement on anything a standard live release could offer.
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