Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Live at the SSE Hydro
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this before the gig. Nick Cave’s music to me seems to be suited to a more intimate venue. Especially when you think about recent events with the tragic death of his son and the extremely personal nature of the song-writing for latest album “Skeleton Tree”.
It was my birthday, however, so I was determined that nothing was going to impact my enjoyment of the gig.
I needn’t have been worried though. I wouldn’t be over-stating things to say the night was monumentally epic. 18 exceptional songs in total and nearly 2 1/2 hours on stage.
I must admit that although I’d listened to a few of the tracks, I hadn’t yet bought the latest album, “Skeleton Tree” so was also concerned that my unfamiliarity with some of the songs would have an impact on my enjoyment.
A night to remember
Again, I needn’t have worried. Although the opening salvo of “Anthrocene”, “Jesus Alone” and “Magneto” were all from that album and are of a very personal nature with almost whispered lyrics at various points, they filled the room and felt like songs I’d loved for years. Cave stalked the stage, prowling like a caged beast, and with the band swathed in atmospheric lights I knew it was going to be a night to remember.
Despite the subject matter of the songs and the impact of his son’s death on the final writing of the album, Cave was on top form interacting and joking throughout the night with the lucky punters down at the front.
BooM Boom Boom
During “Higgs Boson Blues” he traded “boom boom boom’s” with audience members, breaking into laughter at various points. An over enthusiastic fan also grabbed him at one point when he was leaning into the crowd. He responded by jokingly commenting about sexual harassment in the workplace.
“From Her to Eternity” was colossal building to a cacophonous crescendo. His audience interaction continued with him noticing the number of people taking photos and recording videos, building “Brother with an iPhone, Sister with an iPhone” into the song.
A crash of thunder
A crash of thunder and familiar brooding bass introduced the titanic classic “Tupelo”. As the background video of ferocious hurricanes and storms played out, the ferocity was matched by the music, with Warren Ellis brewing up his own storm on the violin. I’ve never seen anyone get the sounds out of a violin that Ellis does. At times playing it like a guitar and creating savage feedback.
One of the set highlights was “Jubilee Street” another song with an extended run-out ending in a beautiful gargantuan clamour. It was transforming, glowing, vibrating and flying, I dare you NOT to “look at him now”
The tempo came down for the brace of “The Ship Song” followed by an emotional “Into My Arms”, but the intensity wasn’t any less. After every song I kept wondering how he would match that, but each time he succeeded and continually exceeded all my expectations. I was feeling emotional during these two songs and it took all my inner strength to not actually have tears in my eyes.
You could hear a pin drop in the audience during “Into My Arms”. The atmosphere at the end was electric when Cave encouraged the crowd to sing the last few lines back to him. Exquisite.
A few shouts went up from the crowd for various songs. Most of which were brushed off. But, when someone shouted for “Stagger Lee” he responded with “We’ll definitely play that one, we always play that one!”
The emotion continued with a brace of songs from Skeleton Tree with the sad lines of “Girl in Amber”…
“You kneel, lace up his shoes, your little blue-eyed boy
Take him by his hand, go move and spin him down the hall
I get lucky, I get lucky cause I tried again
I knew the world it would stop spinning now since you’ve been gone
I used to think that when you died you kind of wandered the world
In a slumber til you crumbled, were absorbed into the earth
Well, I don’t think that any more the phone it rings no more”
…and “I Need You”. Just breathe…..
Red right hand
Next was the song that many of my non-Nick Cave fan friends recognise from its use in the excellent Peaky Blinders, “Red Right Hand”. I’d lost count of how many times in the days preceding this gig that I had to explain who Nick Cave was and had mentioned this song on numerous occasions. Hopefully I have converted at least one person to his music. The atmosphere was intoxicating with the band bathed in sinister red lights. Another Cave classic followed with a transcendent version of “The Mercy Seat”
I’d only just recomposed myself after the double whammy’s of “The Ship Song”/“Into My Arms” and “Girl in Amber”/”I Need You” when “Distant Sky” came along. With a video of Else Torp projected behind the band that added to the poignancy, the lyrics really hit me. It is such a personal song and an outpouring of grief from Cave with masterful violin from Ellis. Even as I type this and read the lyrics it is bringing a lump to my throat.
“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.
Let us go now, my only companion,
Set out for the distant skies,
Soon the children will be rising, will be rising,
This is not for our eyes.”
And to follow this up with set closer “Skeleton Tree” with snow effects on the backdrop video and touching final lines of “and it’s alright now”. I’m emotionally exhausted by this point. And the encore is still to come.
This saw even more interaction from Cave with him making a foray into the audience. During “The Weeping Song” he once more jocularly engaged with the crowd, admonishing a fan off for not holding him up properly.
Penultimate song and massive crowd-pleaser “Stagger Lee” saw him inviting the fans at the front onto the stage. A melee of excited bodies singing, dancing, taking photos and videos and even stage diving as Cave sang. Every word being enthusiastically sung back at him.
“Push the Sky Away” ended the evening with Cave asking the punters on stage to sit down while he introduced/thanked the band to great applause. “You’ve got to just keep on pushing, keep on pushing….”
As he was leaving the stage with the band Cave announced “You don’t know how much this means – no really you don’t.” And I believed him.
It meant a lot to us too. I never ever thought that one of my favourite gigs would be in a venue like the Hydro. But the sheer emotion, interaction with the crowd and quality of the songs and the musicianship came together to make this one very special gig.
As I trudged through the rain back to my car, I smiled as I saw one punter who had been on the stage during “Stagger Lee”/”Push the Sky Away” recounting his experience with child-like enthusiasm to a group of his friends. A night they will never forget.
A night that will stay in all of our memories for some time to come.