After a Covid-enforced haitus from live performing, and on the heels of a short post-lockdown tour with his long time musical partner, Warren Ellis, Nick Cave finally hit the stage with his backing band The Bad Seeds. The past years have been an explosively creative period for Cave, one in which he has shifted his songs and sounds into something more abstract and ethereal, but it was a creative output that seemed much less of a seamless fit with his back catalog and, more importantly, the band that has surrounded him all these years.
But we should never underestimate the ability of Cave and the Seeds to exceed expectations and their show at All Points East proved once again that they remain one of the most compelling and electric live performers in rock music.
After a quick greeting, they launched into their set with ‘Get Ready for Love’, an almost prophetic declaration of what would be offered to the audience, because Cave is a changed man. He still prowls the stage, strutting and stalking both the band and the audience, a consummate, unrivalled frontman, but where anger, and perhaps insecurity was once both the shield and the driving force of his on-stage (and often off-stage) presence, the energy now is about connectivity, communion, love even. He still kicks and screams, throwing mics to the ground as he traverses the stage to get to his piano, but his energy is different these days. The intensity is turned outward, now he plunges into the audience, grabs hands like an evangelical healer and sings right into people’s faces, creating a sense of connectivity that reaches all the way back to the edges of the crowd. This is the new Nick Cave, a man changed by tragedy, haunted by grief, but now open and alive with a new desire to bond with his audience in ways that he had never considered before.
The contrasts in songs have always been used masterfully by Cave and his band, but throwing a song like Bright Horses, from Ghosteen, which is all electronic swirls angelic backing vocals from Warren Ellis and the backing singers into the middle of an outdoor festival set could have killed the whole thing, but it fit seamlessly into night and sat comfortably right next to the harder, edgier songs, the emotional weight of the song hanging in the air and adding to the growing intensity of the night.
The Bad Seeds remain any front man’s dream, they stand in contrast to Cave’s manic stage prowl, even the whirling dervish that is Warren Ellis sticks to his own section of the stage, all their energy and movement is reserved for the music. Like a band of wizards they conjure up spells with their music, apocalyptic noise erupting suddenly out of gorgeously restrained moments of quiet, they truly are a force to be reckoned with.
The show comes to a close with a trilogy of songs, ‘Into My Arms’, ‘The Weeping Song’ and the sparse and incredibly tender ‘Ghosteen Speaks’. It was more of a benediction than an encore, probably not the ending anyone was expecting, but Cave has spent more than forty years defying expectations, mining new territory both on and off-stage, and there was no better way to walk off into the night.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, played All Points East on August 28th 2022