Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds At The Greek Theater, Thursday June 29th 2017
You know you are too close to Nick Cave when your face is whipped by his mic cord every time he jumps unexpectedly on stage, you know you are definitively too close when he kicks you in the stomach with his foot. You should have seen the eyes of these women standing next to me, caressing his legs, holding his hands as much as they could and looking at him with languorous eyes, offering everything they had to attract his attention. I had myself so many occasions to touch him and I barely did, I was in awe and couldn’t resolve myself to touch his pants, hands, but I did touch him when he repeatedly moaned during ‘Girl in Amber’… ‘Don’t touch me, Don’t touch me’… and I smiled.
Great art exists so you can forget about pain, distress and death and this is exactly what everybody at the Greek theater did last night. I was in the pit, front row for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and I did not touch the ground the whole night, head in the clouds, way above the sky, I just couldn’t believe it. I was too close for comfort and if Nick Cave moved like a fury during some of his most violent and aggressive songs, if he restlessly strode the stage from left to right and right to left, he also spent some long moments standing at the edge of the stage or even sitting, as he started his set on a stool just in front of me and I was in total disbelieve.
‘What is she doing with her fucking iPhone!’ he must have been thinking all night long, at least this is what I thought he was thinking, because when you are so close, when you look into somebody’s eyes, you think you can read the person’s mind. I had this thought in my head during the entire night, but I nevertheless captured some moments of this spectacular show, in an attempt to permanently save this amazing experience. When would I get another occasion to be this close to Nick Cave?
But he should understand me, he should forgive my abusive use of iPhone, didn’t he say, ‘Memory is what we are. Your very soul and your very reason to be alive are tied up in memory’ in his movie ‘20,000 Days on Earth’? Memory and time are two Nick Cave’s major preoccupations and this was exactly what I was concerned about last night. I didn’t want to forget and wanted to stretch time forever. Can you truly be in the moment and take pictures at the same time? No, but recording the moment is the only way we have to prevent memory’s decay, and memory has failed me so many times. Haven’t scientists found out that memory is less and less accurate every time there is an attempt to reconstitute a certain moment? All I wanted is download time somewhere else than in my failing brain, relive this precise moment when I was breaking my neck to see Cave’s face and his tall stature leaning above me.
His show was the last one of his US tour and even though I cannot compare with the other ones, it is difficult to imagine a spectacle that could have topped the level of energy I witnessed last night, something you are able to live to the fullest when you are that close to the stage. Passed the high and the adrenaline rush of last night, it’s logical to ponder the amount of audience interaction that Nick Cave puts in his shows, he holds everyone’s hand, screams at your face, abruptly changes direction to reach everyone, and even plunges in the crowd in repeat. Since he counts on everyone, on the crowd’s enthusiasm and willingness to follow him everywhere, a Nick Cave show goes beyond the simple listening experience, it is a physical experience, and from start to finish, your heart makes this ‘boom boom boom’ noise, that he made the crowd repeat during ‘Higgs Boson Blues’.
I was a little anxious to hear the new songs live as his last album ‘Skeleton Tree’ was released just after the death of his son Arthur and carries a palpable heaviness and heartache in complete clash with the crazy enthusiasm of last night. But in an amazing transformation, the weight of his sorrow was fueling the euphoria of the show, it was an exercise in agony exorcism, and each time the crowd erupted, each time he violently dropped the mic on stage, I realized what the show was about, it was a two-hour survival statement and a victory over death.
Obviously the Bad Seeds is an amazing band, Warren Ellis and the other musicians follow every step of Cave, but when you are standing so close to a person that 6,000 regards as a god-like character, even if it is god too willing to flirt with you, you only pay attention to this tall body leaning above you or sitting at a piano to sing ‘I believe in Love’ during the beloved song ‘Into My Arms’. That’s all you need in life honestly, and that’s all I needed.
Of course, Nick Cave raised hell a few times, this is what he does the best with the help of the menacing Bad Seeds’ complex and layered sound, energizing the pit to a cathartic level during ‘From Her to Eternity’, ‘Tupelo’, ‘The Mercy Seat’ or ‘Stagger Lee’ or even venturing through the theater and offering himself to the crowd with passion and swagger, even commenting on the singing of someone ‘I do this for living’, or updating ‘Red Right Hand’ during the Trump era with a ‘read these angry little tweets’.
Not everything was played like a riot though, there were so tender and moving moments, like the rendition of ‘Distant Sky’ with a video clip of Danish soprano Else Torp singing her lovely part with the help of Warren Ellis’ violin.
But at the end, everyone wanted a piece of Nick Cave and he wanted a piece of everyone, During the encore he invited a girl on stage and 50 others immediately followed, me included, but as soon as half the pit was on stage, Cave was already gone in the middle of the theater, once again bathing in a sea of people and striding the entire place during an epic ‘Stagger Lee’. When he got back on stage, he made everyone sit down during ‘Push the Sky Away’ and I knew that was the closest thing I had done to belonging to a cult.
‘What a phenomenal show’, told me a young guy still on stage just after Nick had disappeared backstage, ‘I am going to be fucked up for a while’, he added. Fucked up was the right term, and today feels weird, like being in a post high state of mind… with some regrets though. May be I should have told him some trite ‘I love you’, to hear him reply ‘I love you too, this goes without saying,’ as he said to someone in the audience,… May be I should have grabbed his hand as the woman next to me did so many times, but at the time, it felt like a territory violation, his dark baritone still resonates in my mind, his long arms are still stretching above me, I was so close but he still remains this untouchable music giant.
Higgs Boson Blues
From Her to Eternity
The Ship Song
Into My Arms
Girl in Amber
I Need You
Red Right Hand
The Mercy Seat
The Weeping Song
Push the Sky Away