Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Nick Cave

Edinburgh Playhouse 28th April 2015

Although based in Brighton these days, Nick Cave gigs north of the border in the UK are few and far between. The last one was in the now sadly defunct Picture House in Edinburgh's Lothian Road during 2009. 

With no support band and a relatively early 20:00 start time, there is a growing murmur of anticipation that turns to applause from the capacity crowd at Edinburgh's Playhouse Theatre as the PA quietens down and the house lights dim.
Despite being billed as a solo tour, Cave's 4-piece band (guitarist and violinist Warren Ellis, bass player Martyn Casey, drummer Thomas Wydler and keyboard player Barry Adamson) are The Bad Seeds in all but name. They take up their places first and start the bass rumble of ‘Water’s Edge’. 
Nick  Cave strolls onto the stage, dressed in his usual dark suit, to a tumultuous welcome.

Critics talk of Cave's "magnetic stage presence" but unless you see the man live, you don't appreciate how captivating he is. With elaborate hand gestures even while playing the piano, spasming off his grand-piano stool during the crashing chords of Red Right Hand, or slow strolls along the front of the extended stage, microphone in hand, pointed shoes just hanging over the edge, crouching down to touch the fingertips of adoring fans, he has the audience in the palm of his hand. 
In genial mood and jousting verbally with the audience, Cave responds to someone in the crowd who shouts "We love you" with "I love you too. Well... I'm think I'm learning to love you" and cracks a smile.
I love you too. Well... I'm think I'm learning to love you
The stage setting is heavy with dark velvet drapery and little hanging firefly lights stretching out into the auditorium, adding to the atmosphere. Cave's music is full of emotional intensity, with lyrical obsessions covering death, religion, love and violence. 'I Let Love In' is excellent and is no exception:
Well, I've been bound and gagged and I've been terrorised
And I've been castrated and I've been lobotomized
But never has my tormentor come in such a cunning disguise

Cave's stage presence is such that it’s easy to forget the considerable talents of his band, until you are faced with Warren Ellis’ guitar solo on 'Mermaids' or his violin on 'From Her To Eternity', Barry Adamson's subtle keyboards on 'Breathless' or the rhythm section on 'Water’s Edge'.

During the intense Higgs Boson Blues, Cave is crouched right on the edge of the stage crooning "Can you feel my hearbeat - Boom Boom Boom" over and over to a couple of lady admirers in the front row, their arms held up towards him. His voice lowers as he repeats "Boom Boom Boom" until it's just a stage whisper. Someone in the crowd yells "Yeah!" really loudly and breaks the tension. Unimpressed, but not at all fazed, Cave responds with a hissing "Boom Boom Boom, Motherf*cker!" to cheers from the crowd.

His ostentatious discarding of the sheet notes on the completion of each song, and the interplay with the other band members (a gesture here, a finger point there) illustrate his irrepressible showmanship. He even pokes fun at himself in his amusingly slapdash xylophone accompaniment to Up Jumped the Devil.
Take it away Warren...
Highlights for me are a mixture of Cave solo pieces on piano - Love Letter, The Ship Song, Mercy Seat, and the full band songs - Mermaids, From Her to Eternity and the set closer Jubilee Street.

The encores (and there were 7 songs in all) see Cave leafing through the a swathe of notes and sheet music trying to choose some favorites to perform. He asks Thomas Wydler, the drummer "What's that song - you know the one where the audience singalong?". The informal nature of the choices and lack of a predefined set-list for the encores makes you feel part of a private performance, and Cave doesn't let us down. Every one is a gem. Finally finishing on the slightly pessimistic, but with echoes of Shrek, track: People Ain't No Good. 

This was almost 2.5 hours of sheer entertainment and musical excellence. Full of sections of pure romance but never too far from a garage punk riff. The mixture of intensity, audience participation and stagecraft is everything you would expect from a Nick Cave live experience.

Water's Edge 
The Weeping Song 
Red Right Hand 
Brompton Oratory 
Higgs Boson Blues 
The Ship Song 
From Her to Eternity 
I Let Love In 
Love Letter 
Into My Arms 
Up Jumped the Devil 
We No Who U R 
Black Hair 
The Mercy Seat 
Jubilee Street 

And No More Shall We Part 
God Is in the House 
Avalanche (Leonard Cohen cover)
Jack the Ripper 
The Lyre of Orpheus 

Encore 2:
People Ain't No Good 


  1. Nick Cave has rather passed me by it appears. Other than his hit single with Kylie and a delightfully raucous version of Cindy, Cindy I once saw on TV, I could barely name a single tune. Most remiss on my part, I feel.

    1. I've gradually gained more and more Nick Cave tracks on my mp3 thingy over the years and intended to see him last time round at The Picture House, but for various reasons I couldn't...so I felt compelled to make this one (despite flippin' expensive ticket prices) and I am so glad I did.