SSE Hydro, 27th September
Nick Cave’s legendary status precedes him. With 16 studio albums under his belt, and a global reputation for his dark, unsettling and existential songwriting, expectations are high for the 60-year-old Aussie and his band of eccentrics, The Bad Seeds, to deliver an affecting and memorable performance. And deliver they certainly do.
Cave brings a frenzied energy to his live performance that goes above and beyond what we get from even his most stirring studio material. He enters the stage to resounding applause; his unmistakable silhouette and deep, resonant voice immediately igniting an electric atmosphere in the auditorium. His energy is gleefully responded to by The Bad Seeds, and violinist / multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis in particular answers Cave’s commanding stage presence with a manic individuality of his own. Cave is much more playful than might be expected when performing his newer material, and his upbeat, almost cheeky engagement with the crowd makes for a strange contrast with his sustained, intensely poetic ruminations on the state of the world in songs like ‘Jesus Alone’ and ‘Higgs Boson Blues’. This suggests that not even Nick Cave cares to be a miserable bastard all the time. In spite of this, the pain conveyed in songs like ‘I Need You’ and ‘Girl in Amber’ is raw and real.
Although Cave seems more creatively invested in the material from his most recent albums (Skeleton Tree and Push the Sky Away), the classics he performs are nonetheless great crowd-pleasers. Cave takes to the piano for a heartfelt rendition of one of his rare non-anguished love songs, ‘The Ship Song’, and he answers an audience request for the fan-favourite ‘Into My Arms’ with a simple but moving performance that takes on a hymn-like quality in the vast auditorium. And without wishing to give too much away, the singer’s originality and clout during the encore is truly a spectacle to behold. It’s clear that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are still at the top of their game, and despite the personal tragedies and global misfortunes that have informed Cave’s work in recent years, the singer’s zest for putting on an outstanding show is as strong as ever.
Written by: Cat Acheson – @cat_acheson