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Fevered reports of The Dirty Three in concert in the past week – hardly surprising: man, they’re good – had featured many references to the physicality, comedy, musicality and compelling presence of one Warren Ellis.

This would not be the first time he rated a mention of course. Wind Back Wednesday didn’t have to dig far to find a show, this time from the off-piste offshoot of The Bad Seeds, Grinderman, where the Paganini of the debauched rock world was noticed.

As was clear in 2011, these shows needed a warning: lock up your great aunts, lock away your wonky-on-his-feet great uncle, the circus is in town. So, consider this your public safety warning.



Enmore Theatre, January 28, 2011


LORD, FORGIVE US for we know very well what we do and shame has got nothing to do with it.

Anyway, what, pray tell, is wrong with a bit of rough and deafening catharsis just because you may be more worried about a bald spot than the G spot? Where is it written that clearing out a week of work-and-world-induced glugginess in your system by shouting, sweating, dancing and shaking your innards is only meant to happen if your drug of choice is MDMA rather than Zantac, say?

And who says that you can only simultaneously laugh at yourself and disport yourself in a manner demanding ridicule if you turn up to the Big Day Out (or the cricket) painted Avatar blue instead of in sunscreen and sensible shoes?

Spend a couple of hours with Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos and those questions are as superfluous as an Enmore comfort meter. This is loud and funny and stupid and thrilling theatre – and make no mistake, from Cave’s preacher poses and the backing vocal shouts of “evil, evil, evil” to the Rasputinesque beards of Ellis and Sclavunos and lyrics which reference poetry and porn in equal measure, this is rock 'n' roll as theatre.

Grinderman could well, indeed should well, be ridiculous instead of this super sexy beast. Four men in their 50s getting loud and louche in a manner several of them first assayed 30 years ago doesn't just invite mockery, it opens the door and guides mockery to the table.

But they transcend mockery by first directing it to themselves and then barrelling through with a mix of blues, garage rock and grinding sub-psychedelia played with equal quantities of energy and skill.

They are compelling to watch as well. On one side it is Casey’s rock solid equanimity amid the riot and Scavlunos looming over his drums like a high priest about to sacrifice the first body. On the other is Ellis, contorting his body, kicking and twisting, Dervish like at times as he plays the violin or guitars large and small as if they’ve offended him and must pay the price.

And in the middle is Cave, one minute fire and brimstone, next the fly-plucking child with serial killer genes and beneath it all, the devilish motivational speaker telling us go on, do it, do it now, while you can, you know you want to.

No shame? No need.


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