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song of the week

250 words in the style of the performer

Imagine yourself in the near future. You and your wife are stood in the maternity ward of a gleaming, antiseptic-scented hospital, staring through a floor-to-ceiling window at a child sleeping in its shining plastic crib. This is your child, your first-born. Designed and grown ex-utero from the best of each of you. And it’s not what you ordered, not the thing you paid for. The confident sneer you donated is become the start of a hare-lip, your wife’s rich russet hair now a dirty blonde. But there is beauty there nonetheless, a strange, snarling beauty because you still recognise this child, this sickly song of yours.

So it was watching Nick Cave play last night. Rooted to the piano, no stalking swagger save that of an arm thrown back and held aloft before the keys were pounded in a staccato drive. Each song not quite what we knew, transformed into something.. other. In some instance by the removal of the familiar, in others by changes in lyric or pace. The relentless growl of Stagger Lee became a lounge classic, West Country Girl an angry shout to passion. The atmosphere was not that of a performance, rather a piano-player in a carcinogenic bar-room, throwing barbs at the audience and taking them in return. On Rock of Gibraltar, ‘This maligned song, hated by the press, but the band loves it’; The Lyre of Orpheus was ‘destined for fucking disaster’; a request (a request? from the audience? no polished, pre-ordained performance piece this) for In the Ghetto, ‘We can’t play any Elvis’; and a Polly Harvey-less Henry Lee included ’so beware you fucking English, with a girl on each arm’.

And to my regular reader; Warren Ellis was indeed there, and you should have seen what that man did to a violin bow.


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