Half a dozen tunes in and ’s Prince of Darkness announces it’s getting bloody hot on stage. Should he strip off his trademark black attire, just like the Nick Cave of old would have?
But just as the clutch of frenzied worshippers gathered at his feet begin to salivate, Cave reflects: “When I was younger I didn’t give a f…k.” He clarifies: “Well, I did actually.” “It’s just we have to keep up appearances as we get older”.
It’s a sentiment that the borderline middle-age audience at the Sydney Convention Centre relates to – how did the youthful abandon of a couple of decades agosomehow evolve into such reasoned consideration?
It’s also a handy insight into the night’s set list that encompases a 30 year career spent meditating on love, lust, loss, murder, death and religion – often concurrently. More specifically, how do these experiences shape andchange us over time?
Nick Cave – I need you“I hear you’ve been out there looking for love” Cave whispers in the set’s opener Anthocene. The line carries a sense of hesitancy and tenderness under the song’s gnawing electro pulse. It feels more like an exchange between long lost friends. And, of course, it is – this is the first time Cave and his legion of Sydney followers have interacted since the tragic loss of his son Arthurin 2015.
But the intimate reuniondoesn’t last long. White strobes slash across the arena like a switchblade and Nick Cave the legendarydemonic preacher is back as he launches into Jesus Alone.
A third cut from last year’s Skeleton Tree album, Magento, follows. It’s only three songs and we have already traversed an emotional landscape spanning the need for love and redemption through to a reflection about how “the urge to kill someone was basically overwhelming.”
Nick Cave – Jack the Ripper Higgs Boson Blues follows before the set, with the assistance of brilliant multi-media imagery moves into long-time fan favouriteterritory with furious renditions of From Her to Eternity and Tupelo.
Any good set of songs needs at least one point of contention. Tonight it ishow Cave has chosen to package his so-called “hits”The Ship Song and Into My Arms. Conventional wisdom would surely have dictated these would be left as encore numbers, but here they aremid-set. There is respectful appreciation for both, but one can’t help but feel they are there out of obligation. Does Cave simply want to get them out of the way?
Nick Cave – Distant SkyThe question is given more weight with the next two Skeleton Tree offerings, Girl in Amber and I Need You. Both contain a fresh emotional intensity that could easily see them replace the previous two songs as show-stoppers.
With his audience drenched in ruby red lighting, Cave returns to his menacing best with Red Right Hand. He prowls and taunts the front rows as only he can and throws in a social media twist tothe song’s mid-90s lyrics with “he will read your Tweets.”
Nick Cave – Red Right HandThe intensity continues with a powerful rendition of the Mercy Seat that has lost none of its brooding torment over three decades.
And then, as if to reinforce the fine line between beauty and horror, the main set wraps up with the new offerings Distant Sky and Skeleton Tree.
Having already taken out the obvious encore contenders Cave takes a leaf out of Bruce Springsteen’s book and approaches the front row for song suggestions.
Jack the Ripper is tossed up and Cave and band more than capably oblige.
The Prince of Darkness returns TweetFacebook Nick Cave, Sydney Convention CentreThe Bad Seeds then plough head-first into a rollicking rendition of Stagger Lee – a song that arguablytransports Cave back to his legendary Birthday Party past, both lyrically and performance-wise, more than anything he has produced in the past 30 years.
Another request, People Ain’t No Good, follows. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking Cave surely wouldn’t end the gig on such a downer, would he? But then again maybeit would have been an appropriate statement given the events in Cave’s lifein recent years.
He wraps it up and quickly assures us: “That’s a song I wrote a few years ago. People since then have improved.”
Push the Sky Away is the show’s last offering. The line “Some people say it’s just rock and roll, but it gets you right down in your soul” perhaps best sums up the essence ofwhat Cave the artist and performer has strived to deliver to his legion of fans since the late 1970s.
Nick Cave and Bad Seeds Play at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Sunday night.