Nick Cave – Sage Gateshead

nick cave 3 MICK BURGESS RM

Nick Cave

Sage Gateshead

April 29 2015

What a night! What an experience!

I’m no huge Nick Cave fan and tonight was the first time I’ve ever been to one of his concerts; but following tonight’s show I will be revisiting his works with a fine tooth comb.

Opening the show with a relatively rare song Waters Edge the raven haired Australian had a mischievous glint in his eye that the (sold out) crowd around me virtually salivating.

Not that knowledgeable regarding song titles I had to get the guy sitting next to me to scribble their titles in my note pad; which was a first for me. Of the songs I did recognise Weeping Song was faultless and took Gothic into a whole new hemisphere; and my ‘new friend’ told me afterwards that it had included some ‘sneaky major 7th chords’   in the middle (now there’s something you won’t read anywhere else!).

I hadn’t realized it but Cave’s Red Right Hand was the theme tune for the TV drama Peaky Blinders until he laughingly introduced it as such, and dedicated it to the guys at the front wearing Peaky Blinders flat caps. A couple of songs later during Higgs Bosun Blues, Cave left the stage, still singing and walked through the crowd until he alighted on a handsome young man and took his hand to place on the singers chest while singing “can you hear my heart beat?” ‘My new friend – Dave’ nudged me and whispered, ‘He normally chooses a girl’   then raised his eyebrows and smiled. I’m still not sure what the inference was.

By now Dave was excitedly scribbling his own notes next to the song titles; usually referring to the rarity of the song in question and it appears Cave was really delving into his back catalogue.

Personally I was really surprised by the ferocity of some of the songs; especially noticeable on Mermaids when Warren Elis cut through everything with some really psychedelic Hendrixesque guitar licks and on From Here to Eternity Cave hit the keys on his piano so hard it looked like he was trying to push the instrument straight through the stage.

Thankfully not everything was quite so dramatic; and who knew Nick Cave was quite the maestro on the glockenspiel? Oh; everyone? Hey ho; his glockenspiel master-class on Up Jumped the Devil was breathtaking and only upstaged by the magnificent use of lighting and shadows in the background.

One of the few songs that I knew in advance was Mercy Seat but tonight it was nearly unrecognisable  as Cave stripped it back to the bones and sinew to make it ‘a rare piece of musical beauty’ (as Dave gasped afterwards).

Most songs received really long and loud applause; but it had soon become apparent that fans of his newer work outnumbered the older fans; so the noise that greeted the first encore tune; We No Who U R far outlasted everything that had come previously; yet for me it was one of the weaker songs on offer tonight – but what do I know?

Ever the showman during the introduction to God is in the House, Cave told us that it had been explained in words of one syllable that the venue was in Gateshead NOT Newcastle which is the city across the river. Cave then took on the role of pantomime leading boy by getting the ‘Gateshead people’ to sing the chorus then the ‘Newcastle ones’ to see who was louder; but eventually he ‘brought all of the warring clans together by singing as one’. Perhaps you had to be there.

The atmosphere during the encores can only be described as electric, with fans around me looking like they could spontaneously combust (thankfully Dave maintained a dignified sense of cool all night) and the concert eventually ended with an exceptional song called The Lyre of Orpheus during which we had another pantomime moment when a young man was plucked from the audience to duet on the chorus of ‘Oh Mama!’ and it quickly became obvious that he didn’t know the song; but Cave is a trouper and made light of the situation by twisting his own voice into various knots bringing 2,000 people to their feet as one as the song ended.

What happened next took everyone by surprise; as people were filing out as the house lights dimmed again and the band returned to the stage. Cue people nearly tripping over each other to get back in.

As Cave and ensemble took their places the bass player mumbled into the microphone that the last song was dedicated to the two young Australian drug smugglers who had been executed in Indonesia that day. Push the Sky as was as beautiful as it was unexpected and soon it was all over and I found myself shaking hands with Dave and a few others that I half-recognised as I was now a convert to the Cult of Cave.

photo courtesy Mick Burgess.

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