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Saturday 21 January 2023

Saturday Live

Last November Nick Cave and Warren Ellis played two nights at Hanging Rock, Victoria, Australia along with Larry Mullins on drums, Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood and a three glittering robed singers- Wendi Rose, Janet Remus and T Jae Cole. The sets were filmed and have recently been aired as a forty five minute documentary, the songs interspersed with interviews with members of the audience. The setlist draws on Nick's two most recent albums, Ghosteen and Carnage, both made with Warren Ellis who has become his songwriting partner of choice, a man seemingly never happier than when rocking back and forth on a chair and banging away at a synth on his knees, plus some old favourites. I bought Carnage last January and it hit me hard, the apocalyptic drama and personal anxiety of some of the songs, Hand Of God and White Elephant especially, sometimes leaving me breathless. It feels like an album that was spontaneous and emotional, made a step down the road from Ghosteen- an album that was infused with the loss of Nick's son Arthur, who died in 2015. Warren Ellis' role as co- songwriter and musical foil plays a huge part in the sound, feel and the tone of the albums, a less linear and traditional sound than The Bad Seeds. 

At Hanging Rock the gig opens with White Elephant, Nick centre stage in three-piece suit, rolling with the music the band kick up behind him and the sensational backing vocals. White Elephant switches from George Floyd to a Botticelli Venus with a penis to an ice sculpture 'raining gas and salt upon your heads'. Live at Hanging Rock it is even more explosive than on record, the clanging percussion and clamorous synths forming a huge backdrop to Nick's intense delivery. 'The time is coming/ the time is nigh', the four singers proclaim, 'for the kingdom/ in the sky'. 

White Elephant

Later on, seventeen minutes in to the film above, they play Hand Of God Carnage's opening song. The synth strings sweep left to right, up and down, the tympani thump and Nick goes to the river to be cleansed, the river where the current rushes by- and when the three backing singers and Warren come in with the enormous, fever pitch chant of 'Hand of God/ Hand of God/ Hand of God/ Hand of God', it's genuinely thrilling. 

They play Breathless (from 2004), murder ballad Henry Lee, The Weeping Song from way back in 1990 (when Blixa, Mick Harvey and Kid Congo Powers were The Bad Seeds) and long time fan favourite Into My Arms from 1997's The Boatman's Call, a love song written while in rehab. It's not all deadly serious by any means; at one point mid- song Nick moves to the piano to hammer some chords out while everyone else continues with the song, and breaks up laughing at his playing. The film finishes with Ghosteen Speaks, a song that is infused with Arthur's loss and presence- 'I am beside you/ Look for me'- as the sun sets over Hanging Rock, a song born of horror and grief and filled with love and life. If there isn't a message in there somewhere for us (and for me) then... well, I don't know what.


Anonymous said...

Great versions of 'White Elephant' and 'Hand of God'. Some how more complete, more connected, the music to the words. Nick seems to be singing his way through his grief. I hope all you grievers can sing your way through it.

JC said...

Again, I find myself going 'wow' after reading a post on this blog....

I struggle to listen to Nick Cave's recent material for more than a few minutes at a time, maybe on the basis that I find it impossible to relate to what he's articulating and the downbeat nature of the music.

Given all you've experienced over the past year and a bit, it is a true wonder that you're able to immerse yourself in this way and then later express your thoughts and feelings in such a way.

Thanks, again, for sharing. Love to you, Lou and Eliza.