Nick Cave at Tennessee Performing Arts Centre

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I might have titled this "Nick Cave Live at Tennessee Performing Arts Centre, but that would suggest a concert.  I've been to two Nick Cave concerts, with more to come I hope, but this definitely was not a Nick Cave concert.

I wasn't misled, though.  The evening was titled "Conversations with Nick Cave."  For a stage set, that includes just a piano, Nick and a spare microphone (plus assorted VIP$ stage tables).  Cave fans already know this, but in case someone strays into this post, Nick Cave is an Australian musician (songwriter, etc.) who creates challenging music, at times described as gothic, or, as Wiki puts it, with themes of "death, religion, love and violence."  I'm not his biggest fan of his earlier decades of work, but I'm a big fan since 2004.  

This show, as well as his last album, were impacted by the accidental death of one of his 15 year-old twin sons in 2015.  How does the artist respond?  In part, by appreciating the outpouring of support from his fans and, later, finding a means to continue to engage in the human experience with them.  Thus, he started The Red Hand Files, a forum in which his fans can ask him anything and in which he responds to a great many.  So, why leave that to a forum?  Thus, "Conversations" takes that engagement live.  Or, what he said on postcards for the audience as they entered:

For three hours, Cave would sing a couple of songs, field five to eight un-moderated questions from the the audience, sing a couple of songs, answer more questions, etc.  Typically, concerts offer very little in terms of glimpses into the performer.  Too many play their set with a breif mention of "Hello (insert city name)!" and others feign being personal with canned patter between songs.  And that's okay, but it's rare, post-Sinatra, when the artist just... talks.  This linked review does well in pointing out some of the questions and responses for this particular evening. 

But I'll add my own.  Nick Cave, solo on a piano, is a beautiful thing.  My favorite song, "Jubilee Street," which is one awesome thing with his full band, the Bad Seeds, is now quite another.  Each song was given its due, with his vocal performance and piano expressions as naked without his band as he was in the face of the "who knows what" questions that would come from his audience. 

Each pair of songs appeared to be the result of those he intended to play mixed with those that related in some way to a question presented by the audience, limited only by which ones he had handy for sheet music.  Honesty: "I can't play that one."  In any case, Cave didn't sit back on his chair to appreciate the audience response.  He quickly got up, hustled to the microphone at the front of the stage and pointed to a questioner in one of the lines.  While in no way subtracting from his performance, his desire was clearly for the Q&A.

Tidbits - I've paraphrased as I wasn't recording the show, so if contested, others may be right:
  • On what he thinks of remastered recordings (ala the Beatles catalog):  Once released, the songs belong to the audience - how they sound, how they relate to the moments that they're in.  In other words, he's completely against it.  "If Neil Young ever remixed 'On the Beach' I would fucking seek him out and strangle him, because it's my song!
  • Vegans:  "I would be a Vegan, but the shoes are so fucking bad."  "Vegetarians are unhappy people when people are eating meat all the time."
  • Grief:  A funeral director asked what expressions of grief were offered him, I think asking for better words than the trite expressions generally offered.  Cave mentioned that people often say "he'll remain in your heart" or similar.  Someone told him to "take him out of your heart and put him beside you."  That helped.
  • On terror:  Was terrified performing with a lot of anxiety before shows.  Is terrified of losing people.  Terrified by the Q&A.  Was terrified of giving up drugs and its effect on writing songs.
  • On his shirts:  "A gentleman never talks about his tailor.  But I can play you a song."
  • His more recent songs being obtuse:  "My songs are porous and dependent on the audience for meaning." This was affirmed by one questioner who rambled something fairly unintelligible, but possibly about connecting themes in two songs that may have something related to, eh, we'll say Area 51 and you get the idea.  Cave:  "I have no fucking idea what you're talking about," as politely as he could.
  • On feminism:  "Fuck. I should have taken the question from the woman behind you." He talked about Nina Simone and the strength that she had in her songs and career, which he admired.

So, he's familiar with the F word.  But these were far outnumbered by quick articulate answers that spoke to the question, the questioner, and the audience, often deeply.  Intelligence, humor, insight, introspection - there's a lot to like.
  • On his favorite bible verse:  Matthew 9:20-22. He didn't quote the scripture or the verse, but mentioned the lady with the blood disorder, who reached to Jesus as he passed in the crowd and grabbed his robe. His view is that people, and artists such as himself, should always be reaching for the light.  No mention of the power that flowed from Jesus when the lady touched the hem, but, hey, it's what he took away from the verse.
Three hours of Nick Cave.  I yearn for another concert, but this type of artist encounter may never come around again, and if it did, I'd probably be disappointed in the artist that tried after this.

Also, Adele's rocks for those looking for a restaurant in Nashville.


The Ship Song
The Weeping Song
Where's the Playground Susie? (Jimmy Webb)
Shoot Me Down
Love Letter
Papa Won't Leave You, Henry
Into My Arms
Palaces of Montezuma
Sad Waters
The Mercy Seat
Avalanche (Leonard Cohen)
O Children
Jubilee Street
Stagger Lee

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