With a song in his heart and some serious ants in his pants, Nick Cave has been delivering his socio-sexual polemic for more than half his life now, at the same time as constructing a protective carapace of fandom which surely takes his pronouncements more seriously than he ever has. You need only follow the twisted turns to which he has subjected his muse to understand that; either that, or he really is the self-defeating, self-destructive, and ultimately self-immolating sonofamutha whom doomed gothic consumptives have always dreamed he would be. Recorded at one of the mere handful of shows Cave and the Bad Seeds (augmented by Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis) performed in the wake of his most successful album ever, 1996's Murder Ballads masterpiece, Where the Wild Live Roses Grow is concrete acknowledgement of his playfulness. He draws just two tracks from the album, the opening abuse of "Stagger Lee" and the dark (if ineptly sung) beauty of "Wild Roses" itself, and while Mick Harvey's duetting vocals aren't a patch on Kylie Minogue's, the hint of an audience singalong through the chorus does conjure up forbidden images of its own: Cave aloft on the monitors, arms raised, conducting the crowd -- "and this is decidedly not a rebel song." Taking in his entire solo career, up to and including the 1995 "Willow Garden" B-side, all delivered with just enough muffled clarity to induce a suitably claustrophobic air to the room, Wild Live Roses ranks alongside any other live Cave album you could name, and is markedly superior to a lot of them (the official Live Seeds included). It also offers the ideal antidote to anybody bitten by Cave's poisonous subsequent studio albums; proof that the manifold emotions which he sought to capture there do not only dwell in sparse ballads and crooning. They're out there wherever you want to find them, and they're within this disc in abundance.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson