God is in the House

Review by Michael Jacobson

Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM Stereo
Video:  Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Mute Corporation
Features:  Three Videos, Recording Session Documentary
Length:  140 Minutes total
Release Date:  August 26, 2003

“The road is hard and the road is long and many fall by the side,

But Papa won’t leave you, Henry, so there ain’t no need to cry.”

Concert ***

I was first introduced to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds through my old boss back around 1993.  He loaned me a copy of the CD The Firstborn is Dead and said, “You’ve gotta hear this.” 

Ten years later and I’m still listening.  The Aussie native, with his growling voice and songs that conjured up visions of Southern Gothic and the dark side of the soul were howlingly primitive, sometimes surprisingly eloquent, and often surreal.  The world of Cave was an unsafe world, where primal urges were always beckoning to tormented souls and squeezing out any and all hope of salvation.

God is in the House marked my first experience with Cave and company live.  This concert, recorded in Lyon, France in 2001, was a lot of what I expected (a darkly lit stage, brooding musicians, strong rhythms and somber lyrics), and some of what I wasn’t.  Namely, that Cave is a solid showman as well as a singer and songwriter.

Not that he invites the audience to clap along or anything, but, perhaps channeling the energy of Jim Morrison, he becomes something of a shaman on stage.  The music drives him and he response with intensity and fierceness; constantly moving, not really dancing, but using his physical form as well as his voice for expression.

The songs are all good from the now classic “Do You Love Me?”, a love song as only Cave could deliver.  “Oh My Lord” is a call from the soul, while “Red Right Hand” is darkly infectious.  Tune after tune is delivered with contemplative precision and a deceptively simple selection of notes and rhythms that seem to bypass the conscious mind and delve straight into your inner workings.

It’s a good mix of old and new, with recent songs like the lovely and haunting “As I Sat Sadly By Her Side” coexist nicely with songs like the raucous “murder ballad” “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry”.  The music emerges from behind dim lights and perpetual smoke, some by fog machines, but much from the Bad Seeds themselves.  The crowd dances as though every tune were “The Rite of Spring”, and Cave and audience seem to feed off one another’s energies.

I don’t know if this concert will be enough to convert non-fans to Cave or to serve as an introduction to his music…I can’t speak for them.  But for someone who’s enjoyed the artist’s decade-plus walk along the straight razor edge of hell, I found this show to be a modest yet affirming acclamation of his talents as a writer and performer. 

God is in the House should more than please the fans, which I think would suit Nick Cave to a tee.

Video **

With the consistent dark lighting and murkiness of the smoke, there’s not a whole lot you can ask for this DVD to do.  Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the faces of Cave or the Seeds; though sometimes that’s frustrating, it’s also sometimes seemingly appropriate.  There is a bit of grain from time to time that can’t be helped, I’m sure…high contrast stock must have been used to capture this show, and visible texture is frequently a by-product of that.  It’s a watchable show, to be very sure, but it won’t be mistaken for the best looking DVD in your library.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix (PCM stereo also included) is good mostly for the .1 channel:  Cave’s music is heavy on the bottom and rhythms, and the subwoofer signal delivers nicely.  The rear stage is mostly used for audience response.  The Bad Seeds’ music blends together without a whole lot of discernable distinction; you can’t always separate the guitars from one another, for example.  That can be either a plus or a detraction, depending on your point of view.  Overall, I was very satisfied with the mix and the dynamic range.

Features **

The disc includes three videos from Cave’s newest album No More Shall We Part:  “As I Sat Sadly By Her Side”, “Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow” and “Love Letter”…all good.  There is also a documentary of the album’s recording session at the legendary Abbey Road Studios.  There is no narration or interviews, merely video footage of different parts spliced together so that you can see Cave or one of their musicians recording his part, or working out a vocal arrangement or such.  It’s kind of nice to look into the creative process, but interviews would have been nice.


God is in the House shows that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are still going strong with a subdued but potent live show filled with great songs both new and old.  This DVD may not please the unfamiliar or the newcomers, but fans like me will enjoy having this one in their collection.