Nick Cave–Live @ Thomas Wolfe Auditorium

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Last I saw Nick Cave, at the Louisville Palace, Nick Cave began the show with an energetic and wholly consuming rendition of “Jubilee Street.”  Two years later, he’s begins the concert seated through the entirety of “Anthrocene,”  a relatively subdued song from his latest release, The Skeleton Tree.  Honestly, it’s a disappointment, but by comparison only.  Whereas with “Jubilee St.” he claimed the audience, here he wooed them with a stage presence not needing to be defined by constant motion.  This would be an evening of the slow build.

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My objective lens for this show was a lady seated next to me, excited for her first show and very familiar with his work.  I’m more of a recent convert, and only some of his songs strike the right chords with me.  I think she was utterly amazed that he would just sit there, given the look of disbelief she gave me between songs.  To be fair, she was with her boyfriend, and I kind of feel sorry for him for all the attention she gave the much older me, but that’s the concert experience – something that can be shared when people hear and connect with the same things. 

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After one song of sitting around, Cave was done conserving energy.  From this point, he roamed the stage, to the right, to the left, to the right and, well wait, back to the right.  He found his sweet spot – a group of fifteen or so at the corner of the stage who responded with raised arms, clearly giving back to Cave, and their gravity pulled him their way.  Others along the stage front seemed to figure this out after a time…  Cave exudes stage confidence, but not of the Robert Plant variety where adoration is assumed and acknowledged, but rather sought and gathered.  Throughout the show, when Cave stopped to focus on a small group, he would make circular motions with his arms and hands – perhaps gathering their attention, perhaps making it personal to those he gazed upon.  The woman next to me would mime his motions time and again throughout the show.

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And this is a lesson for those who haven’t been to one of his shows.  Seize the floor.  Actually, the first lesson is to buy your tickets the moment they go on sale.  Avoid regrets later.  In any case, get floor admission. The area in front of the stage was full of people who claimed it, no doubt offending those who paid for pricey “front row” seats.  There is no seating at floor level when Cave performs, and if you want to experience Nick Cave, keep in mind that he pays little attention to those beyond 30’ from the stage.  This is not from lack of appreciation, I think, but from his need for a responsive audience in close proximity.  It’s what feeds his performance, and that helps everyone.  The capacity for this venue is ~2,400.  The photos don’t represent the length of the venue or the size of the crowd – a sell out. 

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Highlights to my ears were “Higgs Boson Blues,” “Into My Arms” (which melted the lady next to me – the song she most wanted to hear, I think), a fiery “Red Right Hand” – with a lyrical edit to make fun of Presidential tweets,  and “Push the Sky Away,” where Cave finally pushed into the audience, stepping on the arms of the theater seats and immersing himself with fans on the floor.

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As for the Bad Seeds, they’re really good.  The main ingredient is collaborator Warren Ellis, alternately playing guitar, violin, piano and anything else that needs doing.  Ellis is incredibly comfortable in his own space.  He doesn’t need the attention from the audience, but at times gives his attention to them.  More often, he’s in his own world, seemingly with great enthusiasm playing the music he loves, often with his back turned to the audience. 

Overall, fans will like this show for a the standard set list which spans his career pretty well.  Did I like the songs better on the previous tour?  Yes.  Does it really matter?  No.  It’s the kind of show that must be seen and experienced… And Asheville, NC is a great destination city for a concert.

Set list:
  • 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:
  • The Weeping Song
  • Jack the Ripper
  • Stagger Lee
  • Push the Sky Away

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