Hot on the heels of Henry's Dream, Nick Cave's most overtly damaged album in years, the old soul-eater dragged his bedraggled band of renegade musicians around Europe on a tour which might have been well-documented by an official live album, but which was also so savage that no single disc could ever do every night justice.
Songs From a Diary, a soundboard recording of an unspecified show elsewhere in the outing, is no different, although in terms of maniacal passion and a frenzy which kicks in from the opening notes, it wipes the floor with its better-heeled cousin. It might, in fact, rank among the best live Cave discs of them all. Certainly there can be no complaints about the track listing, for a better sampling of Cave's edgiest anthems would indeed be hard to find. The band, too, is in delightful form, walking the line between the madness which the music is hell-bent on inspiring and the polish and sheen of the vicious Vegas showman who their leader obviously dreams of becoming. A stormy "Tupelo," the relentless "The Carny," and a positively demented "In the Ghetto" highlight the disc, but the greatest achievement is the listener being able to sit through the entire show, in the dark, on their own, without once being tempted to glance over their shoulder. Was that a shadow or a flicker from the street? Or was it Nick the Stripper, Nick the Ripper dropping by to say hello?