All Points East
Sunday 28th August 2022
I have an irrational aversion to people saying that they ‘get’ something. They get this. They get that. To my way of thinking you ‘get’ a joke, and that’s it. But then it irritated me when everyone started saying ‘go for it’ around 1983. However, eventually I did indeed ‘get’ Nick Cave’, and it is the best phrase to describe the effect. It just took the best part of 20 years for it to happen, that’s all. I went to see him a couple of times in the late eighties with buddies who loved his music. Of course, he was terrific. He obviously had massive stage presence, and I bought a couple of his records on the strength of it. But I still wasn’t totally in the zone. It wasn’t until I heard one of his later albums that it happened. Like that eureka moment. Finally, the records of his I already owned now sounded absolutely spot on, and all I wanted to do was to hunt out more of his stuff. And there is a lot to hunt out.
This therefore made Sunday’s appearance the first time I had seen him for around 35 years. Wow. I find it quite alarming writing that. Hey ho, get over yourself Ian. The Bad Seeds are a constantly evolving and rotating collection of musicians. There were three lady gospel singers now on stage for added ‘feel’. I know Jim Sclavunos is still there on vibes because the man of the hour namechecked him. His number one collaborator now is Warren Ellis, and he was all over the stage. And there were at least half a dozen others contributing to the unrestrained racket.
Nick Cave himself, other than when he moved back to play the piano, was fixed, right up and personal with the mosh pit. Like touching hands with them all and even falling onto the adoring crowd at particularly dramatic moments. And make no mistake the crowd do adore him. I stood a way back from all that havoc, but I was still tight in with the crowd around me, and every one of them was completely focused on the man.
Some of the write-ups I’ve read to the gig have described him as having evolved into a natural ‘entertainer’. I’m not sure about that. He introduced the song ‘Jubilee Street’ as a ‘terrible’ song. A few in the crowd tittered in a ‘Oh that Nick Cave. He’s a one isn’t he’ way. But I think he was using the word ‘terrible’ in the Shakespearean, or even the Biblical, sense. Certainly, when he’s face to face up close with persons in the crowd, singing a line like ‘These days I go down town in my tie and tails. I got a foetus on a leash’, it isn’t…well it isn’t Elvis in his Vegas years is it. I think he’s more dramatic stage actor or preacher maybe, than entertainer. He even has that manner of speaking that…I think if he wanted to, he could attract followers in the Jim Jones kind of following way. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. But he does create a dramatic tension and, trust me, it is an intense experience. The middle of the set slowed down for a few piano ballads. In recent years he’s lost two sons in tragic circumstances. And his fans love him for the elegant manner in which he appears to have conducted himself. Attempting to deal with, and understand, and translate into song, his grief. Songs like ‘I Need You’ and ‘Waiting for You’ being examples of this. It’s genuinely moving, and wonderful. And then he finishes the song, and everyone is applauding and shouting and going nuts, and he takes a few moments to exit that moment so he can get in character for ‘Tupelo’ followed by ‘Red Right Hand’. How on Earth does he do that? And then it’s ‘The Mercy Seat’ and then ‘The Ship Song’. I found myself singing along to this one. I never do that. I can’t sing to save my life. But everyone was singing, like in a choir. It was a truly beautiful moment. And he follows this with ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ which is just about the finest song I have ever heard.
All Points East being a music festival, it had been bands, bands, bands, for upwards of eight hours, and I was running on fumes by the time he came back on for the encore. ‘Into My Arms’, yet another ‘choir’ moment, two others and then he announced this final song was definitely it. I hate leaving gigs early, but for some strange reason it felt right to slowly edge away as the band played the wonderful ‘Weeping Song’. I was a lot further in that I’d realised. A few were doing the same as me, so I wasn’t totally one of those moving about in the crowd nuisances. And we kept looking back as the band played on. It felt like I’d walked back about half a mile and still people were engrossed watching him. And we’d turn round and watch some more. Thumbs up to the festival. Due to the slight natural slope, the stage was still visible, and the sound was still loud and clear. Still the song played. And we watched and listened some more. And then it stopped, and it was all over. And at that moment, it did indeed feel as if the clocks stopped too.