There was a storm brewing in Brooklyn last Friday and Saturday. One that may not have brought a drop rain, but one that unleashed a fury of thunder, vengeful gods, primal force of nature antagonists that can strike down the Devil, and ultimately heartbreak as the legendary Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds rode in with more swagger and destruction than the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse could ever dare dream up.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds may be touring in support of a couple recent releases, the grief-laden Skeleton Tree and Lonely Creatures (a best of compilation), but they brought down the King’s Theatre with a heavy dose of Skeleton Key and many hits from his decades of stories that explode with iconographic imagery and destructive characters. This was a night (the second of two) where a master was at the peak of his otherworldly powers.
Cave may started the night out seated singing “Anthrocene,” but for the rest of the night, when he wasn’t taking a moment to play piano, he was slithering across the stage, reaching out and touching the fans, almost like he was indoctrinating them into his flock. Rare is the slimmest of men who command such a revivalist preacher stage presence. For on this night, Cave was not a man, but a leader on the mountaintop bringing forth a wicked gospel. He was howling, arms outstretched as if to say, “You are all my children! And you are where this power I’m imbued with is born!”
There is an ultimate tragedy in such a statement though, as Cave experienced an unimaginable loss as parent nearly two years ago. It’s the kind of loss that no one should ever go through, that every father and mother dreads. Every inch of Skeleton Key is seeped in that darkness. One that he shared with the audience that night, especially on the track “Distant Sky.” This was a moment that you sense will haunt that audience for every show they see going forward. Hearing a grieving father sing “They told us our gods would outlive us | They told us our dreams would outlive us | They told us our gods would outlive us | But they lied,” is utter devastation. And projected behind Cave, throughout this moment was a towering, almost ethereal vision of Danish vocalist Else Torp, filling the theatre with sadness. You would be hard pressed to find a dry eye anywhere around you then.
But Cave, like the master showman he is, seemed to channel that abyss into roaring renditions of such classics like “Stagger Lee” and “Red Right Hand,” where one concertgoer even offered him a red right mannequin hand. At least it was hopefully just a plastic extremity. During “Stagger Lee” he reached down into the crowd to invite one lady up to dance with him as he sang the song of the baddest motherfucker that ever lived. The furiousness with which Cave interacts with the crowd is the stuff of legends – his sweat dripping down on them, as if to baptize his audience, making them forever his, and making him a part of them as well. Placing his hand on some heads and pulling them in close to peer into his deep dark vision. And maybe, just maybe, on a night like this, every time that Cave reached into the audience and made contact he was drawing energy and love from them, as much as they were from him.
And none of this is possible without the masterful band behind him. Warren Ellis, is a maniacal madman ripping through violin strings and hammering away on the ivory keys. This is a band that knows exactly how to support each other and meshes in the way only artists at their peak can. Yes, Cave and Ellis will always be the centers of this glorious ride, but every person on that stage is a master. Musicians like Savage, Wydler, Sciavunos, and more deserve all the credit they get for such an unforgettable night, as much as the long gone ones like Harvey still resonate with fans of the Bad Seeds.
And finally as Cave and the Bad Seeds came back for their encore, he made sure that the rest of the seated folks got the same entrancing treatment the pit crowd got as he waded deep into the theatre. Cave climbed up on a seat and brought his thunderous presence into their midst. Reaching out and holding one woman’s hand as he sang “Push the Sky Away,” he let them know that no one in this pristine venue is forgotten. And that together they will all push the sky away with unrelenting fury.
Anthrocene, Jesus Alone, Magneto, Higgs Boson Blues, From Her to Eternity, Tupelo, Jubilee Street, The Ship Song, Into My Arms, Girl in Amber, I Need You, Red Right, Hand The Mercy Seat, Distant Sky, Skeleton Tree
Encore: Rings of Saturn, Nobody’s Baby Now, Stagger Lee, Push the Sky Away
Article: Omar Kasrawi