It's got all the look of "deluxe" written on it, the thick, book-like black cover with an inset photo of frontman Nick Cave doing his flip to wig city dance -- Bad Seeds fans don't need much encouragement to rush out and pick up something by St. Nick and his motley crew of bent ministers of melody, and there's good reason. This double-DVD/double-CD package assembled from the Abattoir Blues Tour in 2003 and 2004 is quite a thing. The 17 tracks that cover the CDs are taken from dates throughout the tour. Sound is wonderful -- particularly with the new ambient, noisier aspect of the Bad Seeds put into place by Warren Ellis' violin. Opening with "O Children" in Dusseldorf backed by a quartet of female backing singers and the sheer drama the Bad Seeds put into backing their boss' baritone harangue, the Seeds are in prime form. The proof of this is underscored in the freaky-deaky Aussie funk blues of "Hiding All Away," where Mick Harvey's guitars sting and spark. And so it goes. The lion's share of the material comes from the Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus double, but there are some choice moments from the back catalog as well as nuggets such as "Red Right Hand," "The Ship Song," "The Weeping Song," and "Stagger Lee" rounding out disc one, and "God Is in the House" (which could have been left off and made this a single disc!), "Deanna," and "Lay Me Low."
The DVDs contain a pair of shows. The first is live at the Brixton Academy in November of 2004, and the material is simply woven together so tightly that it's hard to believe not every gesture is rehearsed. Cave engages his audience in front of a band so utterly in sync with one another they've become the complete evil twin version of the E Street Band. The material is obviously similar to the material on the CDs, but being one show, it flows better and there are some different track selections (on the second DVD anyway). There is, after all, a large palette of backlog for the Bad Seeds to draw from at this point and the Brixton show is full of chaotic energy and humor as well as drama. The second DVD contains seven performances taken from the Hammersmith gig in June of 2003, nearly a year-and-a-half before Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus was released. The material comes from various earlier Cave recordings and includes a deeply moving reading of "Sad Waters." Also here are "Wonderful Life," "Bring It On" (with Chris Bailey of the Saints guesting on vocals), "Nobody's Baby Now," "Watching Alice," "Christina the Astonishing," and "Wild World." All of these tunes are performed with variation and real inspiration. In addition to the live performance on the second DVD, there are some extras including a short film on Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus and promotional videos for all the tunes from the album and Nocturama which includes "Breathless," "Nature Boy," "Get Ready for Love," "Babe I'm on Fire," and "Bring It On." Finally, there is an intimate film shot by Mick Harvey about the "Bring It On" shoot.
In other words, it's a rather exhaustive document of perhaps the most significant album and tour in Cave & the Bad Seeds' tenure together. It may be too much for some, but for those who get that Cave is an ever changing, always evolving entity and his band has become a supergroup, this is more than a snapshot's worth of documentation, and it's worth every dime.