By DAN MACINTOSH
LOS ANGELES – Back in the early ’80s, when Australian Nick Cave was still raving like a madman while fronting The Birthday Party and wooing the Goth crowd, it was impossible to imagine the man hosting a night of conversation and music at a prestigious classical music concert hall. And yet, there he was, dressed sharply in a suit, alternating between sitting at a piano messy with sheet music, and crisscrossing the stage answering audience questions.
So, what changed him, one audience member asked. He replied that the loss of his teenage son, who died tragically, was what helped bring out his tender side. It was amazing to watch Cave work the crowd. Yes, there were adoring fans that took the chance to thank Cave for the positive affect his music had upon them.
More than that, though, there were audience members that turned to Cave as though he was a trusted friend. One man, for example, drew comfort from Cave’s music after losing his daughter. Another young woman spoke of the impact Cave’s music has had since she escaped the religious cult she grew up in. Still, one other woman asked Cave how should could ever trust again after being betrayed by a lover. This was the stuff of the Dr. Phil show. These people put Cave high on a pedestal, the same way followers might treat a guru.
Cave responded by taking his responsibility seriously. He never brushed off a query or made a joke of his fans’ questions or fanboy/fangirl behavior. He answered each question thoughtfully and personally, almost like in a ministerial counseling session. If you’re beginning to think this was like no other concert you’ve ever read about before, you’d be right on the mark. This was a special, intimate evening.
Only eleven songs were performed this night, all with Cave sitting solo at a grand piano. Some lucky fans even sat around candlelit tables at the back of the stage. All were treated to the cream of Cave’s musical crop. During one answered question, Cave recalled how The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan called Nick a crooner, not a rocker.
Yes, Cave can still rock hard. However, most of the songs he sang this song featured Cave’s unique croon. He opened with “The Ship Song,” built up a head of steam with “The Mercy Seat” and showed off his uniquely theological take on love songs with “Into My Arms.” He ended with Jimmy Webb’s “Where’s the Playground Susie” and “Stagger Lee,” the latter he only half-jokingly described as “pornographic.”
Those fortunate to procure a ticket for this show walked away relishing an evening they will never forget. It’s noteworthy that Cave perfumed this concert date so closely after The Cure’s recent festival in Pasadena. Both acts may have been initially embraced by the cliquish Goth crowd, yet each grew far beyond that audience’s black clad limitations. This night, Nick Cave proved to be both an artist and a gentleman.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Into My Arms Live – Live in Copenhagen