13 Jun 2017: Beacon Theatre New York
I went into Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ June 13th show relatively unfamiliar with the artist’s music. I know he was pretty legendary, I know he puts on strong performances, and I know the song “Red Right Hand” as it is used as the theme song for Peaky Blinders. I came out of his show wanting to know more about him… I learned that Cave recently encountered the unfathomable tragedy of losing a child. His son Arthur died after falling from a cliff. Cave’s emotional response is included in part on the critically acclaimed 2016 album Skeleton Tree.
I won’t pretend that Cave is able to excise the pain from that tragedy. But what I witnessed at the Beacon certainly was inspiring if not hopeful. It was the first time I saw an audience (relatively) ignore the seating arrangements of the Beacon Theatre and flock towards the stage unobstructed, arms outstretched in order to receive the singer’s touch. A lucky few joined Cave in communion during the show while, close to the encore, numerous people were welcomed on stage to observe the song and dance ritual close up. It was as if Cave was a preacher of darkness.
From the opening song, “Anthrocene” and for almost the entire show, Cave’s performance was intense. His catalog is known for “murder ballads and fever dreams” as Vulture noted, but I was not expecting this level of intensity—it was discomforting, a weight-upon-the-chest. It didn’t help that some of his lyrics pursued me even after the show. The incantations in “Tupelo”, the line “nothing really matters, when the one you love is gone” (from “I Need You”) and the hopefulness of “Into My Arms” reverberated for days after.
Cave has expressed pain in his music for ages (and gathered the best of those in the recently released best-of compilation Lovely Creatures). Even more impressive than his powerful performance is the fact that he hasn’t retreated from the public sphere since his loss. Hopefully, Cave finds solace in his fans… they certainly need him.
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