An incredible performance...

Rapturous applause greeted Nick Cave and Warren Ellis as they walked onto the stage and it was not unwarranted. For the next couple of hours or so, both musicians gave impeccable performances. Playing songs from the 2019 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album 'Ghosteen' as well as their more recent (lockdown) offering as a duo, 'Carnage', the raw emotion conveyed by songs such as 'Ghosteen' was tangible.

The ethereal 'Spinning Song' was the captivating set opener. A Bad Seeds track, the audience was mesmerised and they remained in this state for the duration of the epic show - right until the very end of the second encore. Cave sang at the adoring audience from each side of the stage - his passion not allowing him to remain still and centre stage.

'Bright Horses', taken from 'Ghosteen', was next. Cave dedicated the utterly beautiful 'Night Raid' to his wife ("And we all rose up from our wonder / We would never admit defeat"), while Warren Elis looked after the synthesiser, violin and flute with masterful ease. At times, he played the violin on one leg which the audience loved so much that their applause for him meant that Cave had to pause for a moment before he could continue with the song. - 'Hand of God' was melodramatic and powerful, as was title track 'Carnage' - one which was especially great to hear live. Meanwhile, 'Ghosteen' was poetic and incredibly moving.

Grief was an inescapable theme of the evening. Listening to the duo, you almost felt paralysed. Perhaps 'transfixed' is a better way to describe the feeling. It was an enjoyable show, of course, but the intensity and drama behind the personal songs about grief and bereavement were powerful - almost too much to bear, like an emotional gut punch to witness live. Cave himself said at one point, "let's all take a moment to compose ourselves" while delaying the start of the next song.

They also played a T. Rex cover called 'Cosmic Dancer'. 'Balcony Man' was an invitation from Cave for those seated on the balconies to be more "animate". Some got up and danced when the spotlight was on them, while on the opposite balcony, they... didn't. Luckily, he saw the funny side. No one was seated towards the end of the show when the duo received a standing ovation. Twice.

Cave spoke to the crowd and, at times, audience members shouted things which meant he was momentarily distracted and found himself laughing, unable to start a song. Before starting 'Hollywood', he shared an anecdote about how NME had once (rather unfairly) given one of his songs a scathing review. At this, someone in the crowd shouted, "F*ck 'em". Cave, who was quickly reminded that they had recently been kinder in their reviews, changed his tune and thanked them for their support before dedicating 'Hollywood' to "musical journalists". It was all rather amusing.

'Hollywood' is a song about a folk tale where a woman named Kisa learns that death was a natural part of life through her grief and desperation.

It was a truly special performance with audience members being immersed fully into the moment. It is surprising that, over forty years into their careers, this is their first double-billed tour but, oh, what a performance!

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Words: Narzra Ahmed
Photo Credit: Joel Ryan

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