Our Holy Father Nick Cave?
Long gone are the sweaty and shirtless performances of Nick Cave. Hello to a transcendent experience hosted by a haunted man in a suit.
Cave went from playing free shows in dilapidated houses to selling out one hundred-something dollar tickets at big city theaters. His career has done nothing but grow. In 2015 Cave experienced a family tragedy that, obviously, changed him and his music forever. Like Orpheus, Cave has walked through hell and back.
Cave’s early career epitomized punk rock. The Birthday Party (initially called The Boys Next Door), were known for their satanic aesthetics: screeches, frantic lyrics, offensive horns, fast paced drums, unruly hairstyles and eardrum-bursting sounds. They made people feel afraid, yet liberated by addressing taboo subjects with courage and intensity. Not to mention those chaotic beats.
In 1983, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds was born. The group is a matured and refined version of the initial disorder of Cave’s music. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds started out carrying over much of the punk rock ways of The Birthday Party, but now has found its holy mantra. They’ve gone from blood curtling songs like “Her To Eternity” in 1984 to wine and cheese songs like “Push The Sky Away” in 2013. Their discography addresses religion, love, death, murder, crime, punishment, fishing and war. The list could go on for ages—maybe even eternally, if Cave is in fact a God.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their sixteenth studio album Skeleton Tree in September of last year and they’ve been touring on it ever since. A week before, Nick Cave released a music documentary on the making of the album entitled One More Time With Feeling. If you don’t see this before you listen to the album, you’re not getting the full spiritual effect of the music.
The film not only shows the creative process, but it also unfolds layer-by-layer the tragedy that struck Cave and his family during the making of the album. In July of 2015 Cave’s 15-year-old son Arthur died after accidentally falling off a cliff.
“What happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic that you just change?” Cave asks in the documentary.
Every word sung in Skeleton Tree is saturated in emotion—not like The Birthday Party days, but emotion from someone who has drastically been transformed by tragedy. Whether it’s relatable to you or just tells you a touching story, you can’t help but immensely feel something.
Imagine experiencing that sort of life-changing intensity live.
Forty-six-year-old Sacha Lecca, Deputy Photo Editor at Rolling Stone magazine, attended the show at NYC’s Beacon Theater this month and tells BTRtoday that it was “one of the best” shows he’s ever seen. “It felt like church—he delivered us safely from the darkness and we left the show feeling transformed” he describes. “Seeing him live reminds you how healing art, poetry and music can be, even songs of great sorrow and loss.”
Another fan that attended the NYC show, Tanya Madorsky, 29, also describes the show as transformative. She tells BTRtoday that when the music started an essence of intensity filled the room. “Having known the tragedy he went through and how he’s pushing through that was so inspiring to remember to have strength in your own life,” she says. “I also can’t think of a rock star who obviously so desperately wants his fans to connect with his music. It’s really special to experience how palpable it is [to Cave] that you’re part of it, the audience isn’t just a prop.”
Judy McGuire, 53, a longtime Nick Cave fan, made it to two sold-out Cave shows in NYC this year. She describes both experiences as “transcendent.” McGuire recalls discussing Nick Cave’s transformation with a friend and they both concluded that he has dramatically changed. They describe his past tours as a “one-way street,” but with this current tour Cave seems to really be getting something out of the exchange with the crowd.
“The love the crowd has for him is really palpable,” she says. “For a real fan, seeing these shows is what I imagine church feels like for true believers… Lots of tears coming from grizzled old punks and art jerks wearing black—we were all rooting for him.”
After hearing these descriptions of Nick Cave, it’s hard to believe he used to play shows where attendees were thrown out for stage diving and being too wild. It seems that Nick Cave isn’t the only one who has changed but is fans have traveled the road with him.
“You change from the known person, to an unknown person,” Cave says in his documentary. “So that when you look at yourself in the mirror, you recognize the person that you were, but the person inside the skin is a different person.”
Perhaps he’s not a God, but I’ll pray to that. Amen.