[review n pic by mark williams]
Growing up, I was a huge fan of the deranged band The Birthday Party. Their music was an unhallowed fusion of blues, rock and roll, and pimp punk rock jazz. I remember the tension and edge of their earlier shows that teetered on violence as Nick Cave teased the audience with his cowboy boot often kicking out at anyone who tried to grab the microphone cable.
It was exciting, unpredictable but was never going to last so it’s even stranger now to witness that after all those drug fuelled years to see ‘Nick Cave’ now regarded as eldest statesman and agony aunt to a generation of ‘Gods lonely children’.
Describing the evening as ‘an exercise in connectivity’, and where the audience were encouraged to be bold and challenging in their enquiries, Nick took questions from Germany, Holland and a few from people with a strong local inflection.
Nick dismisses “Morrissey” to a loud cheer but gets a few gasps when he claims Marc Bolan to be a better writer than Bowie. He cites his influences as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Cohen before going on to discuss comedy, religion and love.
He remembers receiving the music publications three months after they were printed in the U.K due to the shipping post to Australia, and could not wait to move to London as it all looked so exciting. He felt hugely let down on arrival as the music scene was disappointing and bland with culture and reality way below expectations.
Since the tragic death of his son Arthur in 2015, Nick admits that his own grief has “changed me forever” and also admitted to talking to his son before he goes on stage as a way of ridding himself of stage fright.
He has requests for song writing tips, and general life questions often by people in tears due to the emotion of meeting their hero or with a personal tale of grief that often makes it as uncomfortable as those early Birthday Party gigs.
Some questions appear half thought out or even gushing, which leads to Nick squeezing in some of his most beloved songs on piano as a get out clause. These moments were of course intimate and beautiful especially as I was lucky enough to be tabled on the stage “Goodfellas” style, and were close enough to hear his suited and booted foot tap out the songs beneath the hush of the audience.
Nick looked almost gaunt like close up with his dyed black hair and flared suit bottoms prowling the stage in an evangelical preacher manner pointing out the audience for their next question to test his faith. He played for a bladder enduring three hours with about 15 songs including a haunting God Is In The House and cited the Manchester Arena concert last year as “the first rock concert after the bombing” as one of the most emotional he had played.
He goes on to play the beautiful and tender ballad Into My Arms which is about as near as an atheist can get to a religious experience from someone who was
lucky enough to attend that concert last year as well. Nick goes on to tell us stories about recording with his hero Johnny Cash, his friendship with Michael Hutchence, before going on to play a few more requests making it feel like an individual concert rather than the slight formula it inevitably becomes as people probably ask similar questions night after night.
Perhaps the less star struck of fans can connect by virtue of the beautiful answers he gives via the “Red Hand Files” website that he is very keen for his fans to be aware of tonight.
Who would have thought it eh? Nicholas Edward Cave as an openhearted agony aunt to the nation with no “well meaning little therapists’ in site.