CULTURE

Cave’s more intimate delivery

There was a time when a fair number of Australia’s more creative bands, most of them relatively obscure at home and nowhere near high on their nation’s pop charts, had risen to become darlings of independent music circuits abroad, including Greece and other European locations. For local fans that were around for that Antipodean music deluge between the mid-1980s and early 90s, present-day performances in Athens by two veteran Australian acts, both within less than a week of each other, may rekindle memories of a hefty and sustained Australian musical wave that struck local shores back then. Last Saturday night, Radio Birdman, a pioneering force in Australian punk rock back in the late 70s – and currently reformed and touring the world with a new album – played their first ever show in Greece, fittingly at one of the capital’s longest-surviving rock’n’roll dungeons, the An Club. This coming Friday night, another Australian musician, Nick Cave, is scheduled to perform his latest of many shows in this country as a celebrated international act. Cave’s tumultuous career has gradually moved from the periphery to major venues and widespread acclaim. The brooding Australian songwriter, whose often harrowing work, both abrasive and gentle, has managed to connect with the masses to such a degree that this latest show, at the open-air, 5,000-capacity Lycabettus Theater, is being presented as a smaller, more intimate production. Cave, who filled one of the Greek capital’s bigger indoor Olympic facilities just over a year ago with a turnout of some 15,000 fans, is returning with just three of his several backing musicians, dubbed the Bad Seeds, for a softer, more intimate delivery of his compositions. His stripped-down version of the Bad Seeds will comprise two compatriots, bassist Martyn Casey, formerly of the outstanding but defunct Perth band the Triffids, and violinist Warren Ellis, a founding member of Melbourne instrumental trio the Dirty Three, as well as American drummer Jim Sclavunos, whose past includes work with the pychobilly band the Cramps. Returning to Radio Birdman, who persist in knowing nothing about gentler musical ways more than two decades on: They blasted their way through last Saturday’s set in Athens with new work from «Zeno Beach,» an album released earlier this year and included amid the selections. Interest in this aging, high-energy band with a couple of practicing doctors on board was revived – and broadened – by an excellent compilation album, «The Essential Radio Birdman: 1974-1978,» released internationally in 2001. It helped prompt the current reunion, with a couple of new additions aboard, including bassist Jim Dickson, who has played with countless Sydney acts, such as Louis Tillett, a frequent and popular performer here. When Radio Birdman originally split in 1978, the band members all went on to form various new outfits. Guitarist Deniz Tek, an American expatriate, formed New Race with the defunct band’s frontman Rob Younger, ex-Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton, and ex-MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson. Younger, who went on to produce numerous albums by the newer generation of Australian punk bands, later formed his own act, the New Christs, one of the many Australian bands that ended up finding sturdy indie-circuit followings abroad, including in Greece. The band’s touring activity had included a gig in Athens. The New Christs were just one of many domestically neglected Australian acts that responded to their odd popularity abroad by traveling the thousands of necessary miles to get to their international hot spots and pack overseas fans into clubs. Others included the Go-Betweens, the Triffids, the Hoodoo Gurus, Died Pretty, Louis Tillett, Ed Kuepper, the Saints, Hugo Race, the Chills – from New Zealand – and of course, Cave, the most frequent and enduring visitor of all. For many, his latest visit, hot on the heels of Radio Birdman, is bound to revive memories of a bygone golden era.