Photographs by Neil Van
If you’ve never managed to catch Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds live and are a fan of music in the live setting, do yourself a favor and catch them, especially on his latest tour supporting last year’s Skeleton Tree. A new singles compilation, Lovely Creatures was released within the last month so the timing was perfect for Cave’s return to Toronto.
Skeleton Tree is an emotionally devastating album recorded following the death of his son. I was curious how Cave would present the new material given his vast wealth of material and his tendency to bring down the house.
With no opening act, the Bad Seeds took to the stage roughly 15 minutes after their scheduled start time of 8 for the first of two sold out nights at Massey Hall. Nick Cave followed suit and the band opened their 2 ½ hour set with a trio of Skeleton Tree tracks setting a relative somber tone for the start of the evening.
But as any believer converted in the church of Cave can testify, Cave is one of the most riveting and rousing performers and by the time he got a handful of songs in he was fully ensconced in crazed preacher mode for “From Her To Eternity” stalking the entire stage and holding the hands of those gathered that took advantage of the lax security to rush the stage.
By “Jubilee Street” the intensity was almost overwhelming even Cave commenting on how amazing it was. It truly was amazing and the new album added an additional emotional element to the proceedings. While he clearly is in his element in this crazed preacher mode, the new album infused the feeling that Cave himself needed to be healed. New cuts like “Into My Arms”, “Skeleton Tree” and “Girl In Amber” had my heart lumped in my throat, blistering versions of “Red Right Hand” and “The Mercy Seat” rammed the heart back to its place.
The crowd was more than happy and enthusiastic to submit to his salvation, offering to carry him through the crowd, something he would do toward the end of the night.
Obviously Cave can’t play everything – his catalogue is too vast, but while the set relied largely on his most recent two albums, he did his best to touch on many of his albums throughout his career. Massey Hall lent the perfect atmosphere to the night and the sound was its usual pristine self.
Cave closed the night with a truly manic “Stagger Lee” that was spellbinding before making his way through the crowds for hat can only be described as a spiritual take on “Push the Sky Away” with Cave and his flock literally shoving their hands in the air because clearly we all needed it.