It was only when Nick Cave sat behind his piano to sing ‘The Ship Song’ and ‘Into My Arms’, that I realized this was what a regular show should look like, a man sitting behind a piano, or a mic or a guitar and singing his songs…. What we had experienced during the 7 first songs of the show (and many others which followed later on) was not ‘normal’, it was something else, a transcending experience, a freak of nature kind of show, with a performer moving faster than lightning, touching and getting touched by as many people as possible. But it was not my first Nick Cave show, so that was not a complete surprise… but you certainly know what I mean if you have taken part in this giant and intense musical communion.
Nick Cave has certainly become an out-of-the-ordinary performer, and attending his show front row at the Forum is actually an experience really hard to put into words. It’s all about strong emotions overwhelming you for 2 hours, an overboard passion transporting the pit audience, a series of powerful feelings leaving not a moment of rest when celebrating the cult of a hero. There are no other words to put it, Nick Cave is a god, he knows it, and enjoys every minute of it, controlling the crowd at his fingertips, asking them to touch him, to not touch him, to get on stage with him, to stand up, to sit down, to put the phones down. Now the Forum is a huge place, the largest venue where I have ever seen him perform, but he couldn’t have cared less.
He was constantly running and athletically jumping across the pit separating the stage from the long runway, he was leaning over the audience, bringing the adoring crowd to some hysterical extremities. But when you repeatedly offer your body to such a hungry crowd, you are taking an incredible bet based on trust, all these hands touching his pants, his hands, his arms had to be the most incredible carnal fever I have seen during a live show. The music and the songs at this point seemed like a pretext to feel and get closer to Nick, while he was asking for more, minute after minute, leaning over our heads and screaming, spitting at our faces, kicking the air a million times with his shiny black shoes and green sparkling socks.
There was so much swagger in his performance while he went through all the emotions of the human spectrum, starting with the sad songs of ‘Skeleton Tree’, that, I am happy to report he now interprets with all the usual fun and even a laugh triggered by something during the performance. During his performance at the Greek in 2017, he sang ‘Jesus Alone’, ‘Magneto’, just in front of me, sitting on a chair with a deep voice and a tone so heavy that you could have imagined a curtain of lead suddenly landing on our shoulders. Last night, he did these same songs while running away and haranguing the crowd with a fierce determination, transforming these songs of sorrow into something completely different, going from personal chagrin to collective gothic creepiness. This was especially true when he whispered at someone’s ear, ‘Come on, come on, come on, come on,…’ or sang at someone’s face the line, ‘It was the year I became the bride of Jesus’ or erupted like a human volcano while screaming ‘across the ceiling’. ‘Jesus Alone’ is still a great opener with the mourning soundscapes of the Bad Seeds and Warren Ellis ‘ beautiful loops, the song was the same one, and then, sounded totally different.
None of the staple songs have lost any of their drama, and all the epic ones are there, ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ moved like a slow burn, stretching the line ‘Can you feel my heartbeat’, with a chest-beating choir from the crowd replying ‘Boom boom boom’. ‘From Her to Eternity’ was a breathless and furious battle between the piano, the pit and the crowd chanting a few more of these ‘boom, boom booms, it was a complete madness with Ellis’ violin flying in the air while Nick, leaping and roaring like a predator, was landing flat on his knees. ‘Red Right Hand’ and later on ‘Tupelo’ and ‘Stagger Lee’ came as no surprise since Nick Cave was in full bad motherfucker mode, and at this point, he was controlling everyone’s heartbeat: I am sure he could have stopped all of them at once with a click of fingers.
Almost song came with a ‘Are you ready?’ addressed to the crowd, and the piano songs ‘The Ship Song’, ‘Into My Arms’, and a rare one ‘Shoot Me Down’ (‘so rare we didn’t put it on record’) did shine like a quiet oasis in the middle of this bloody slaughter. Curiously the songs with the most raucous reputation may have been surpassed by others, or at least ‘Jubilee Street’ could have competed with ‘Stagger Lee’, a song which brought an obedient crowd on stage.
And after an always moving ‘Pushing the Sky Away’ with people kneeling on stage, a comical waltz with a man, a grand tour of the Forum during which Nick disappeared from my privileged front-row view to embrace and conquer the immensity of the 17,500-seat venue, the band came back for an encore of two songs. And who could reproach them for not playing all the songs listed on the setlist when some numbers stretched to such epic proportions of theatrics? With all that focus on Nick Cave, the quicksilver god building a tempest and stopping hearts inside the Forum, it was difficult to pay any attention to the excellent Bad Seeds, although Warren Ellis’ expansive violin moves were a beauty by themselves. It also should be noted that the show opened with an homage to Bad Seeds pianist Conway Savage, who died last month.
It’s difficult to express why a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds show is like none other show, but it certainly is the kind of life-transforming journey that fans want to relive over and over, a unique odyssey bringing to life a powerful range of emotions. If several of the songs they did on Sunday night did also figure on last year’s setlist, the experience was different. That’s probably what makes a Bad Seeds show so unique and human, anything can happen, and each show is truly different. From wounded man to menacing predator, Sunday show looked like a resurrection of a man at the top of his game, still defying the gods of rock ‘n’ roll, personalizing danger and humanity, while bringing back the visceral and redemptive power of music.
Higgs Boson Blues
Do You Love Me?
From Her to Eternity
Red Right Hand
The Ship Song
Into My Arms
Shoot Me Down
Girl In Amber
The Weeping Song
Push the Sky Away
City of Refuge
Rings of Saturn
(The Mercy Seat, Jack the Ripper, Skeleton Tree, Mermaids, Distant Sky) listed on the setlist but not performed
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