By Joshua Erickson
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
June 22, 2017
VANCOUVER – If one was walking past the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on the evening of June 22nd without knowing who was performing, a study of the crowd outside may not have given any helpful clues. Over his storied career and nearly 4 decades of music, Nick Cave has traversed and transcended both genres and generations and this reflected in the crowd attending the show. Sitting down in the venue, you were just as likely to be sitting besides some goth kids or aging punks, as you were to be beside a couple who looked like they could very well be your mom and dad.
While heading into the venue, the diverse crowd was clearly very excited, but there was an elephant in the room that no one really wanted to speak about out loud. In 2015, Nick Cave’s son died in an a sudden and tragic accident. In 2016, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their 16th studio album Skeleton Key and the accompanying documentary One More Time With Feeling, both of which dealing with Cave and his family trying to understand and overcome the unimaginable trauma. Cave himself has become known as one of the greatest frontmen of all time, but how would this affect his performance?
With an advertised start time of 8pm and no opener, it was clear Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds intended to take the audience on a journey. After the Bad Seeds walked onstage and started playing, when Cave himself walked on stage he received rapturous applause and standing ovation. After a wave of acknowledgement, he grabbed a chair and motioned to the audience to sit down as he himself took a seat front and centre stage. The band opened up with “Anthrocene,” a somber and meditative cut off of Skeleton Key. One would be forgiven for thinking the entire show would be like this, but Cave was not constrained to the chair long. The pure and raw emotional intensity of their songs has become the calling card for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and whether Cave has come to terms with this tragedy, or is still unpacking it all, his performance was nothing short of astounding.
As the show went on, the band and the energy seemed to transform and mutate alongside Cave. As a man of almost 60 years old, he has more moves and urgency in his performance than nearly anyone 1/3 his age. It is like Cave uses each song to exorcize a particular demon – or maybe he lets the demons inhabit him, I’m not sure. But the way he harnesses the band to elevate his performance while interacting with the crowd is unparalleled. He is a wonder to watch on stage. An emotionally fraught, performance transcending, hip-shaking and dancing – possibly demon inhabited – wonder
Performing a career spanning setlist, Cave included long time fan favourite tracks such as “Red Right Hand,” “From Her To Eternity,” and “The Mercy Seat,” which were all placed appropriately as the mood and atmosphere of the show progressed. The culmination of the show, however, took place during the encore. Beginning with “The Weeping Song,” Cave crawled across the crowd gathered at the front of the stage, until he reached the seats, where he climbed up 10 rows of seating and sang in the middle of the crowd, giving an incredibly spirited and passionate performance. As the song ended, he ran back to the stage as the band kicked into “Stagger Lee,” one of The Bad Seeds longest and most violent songs. While crooning the audience, Cave invited audience members onstage one person at a time, while security stood to the side looking confused and not knowing what to do. There was eventually over 50 people onstage. With the audience beside him, Cave went unhinged, grabbing people by the collars and shoulders, singing/ yelling straight into their face, letting all emotions fly unchecked and giving a legendary performance all in attendance will remember.
What else can you say about Nick Cave. He is undoubtedly one of the best frontmen of all time, backed by one of the most unique and impressive bands in the world. He is a man of passion, intensity, emotion and bares it all on stage for us to see. We should be considered lucky to have him.Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Queen Elizabeth Theatre