Nick Cave and Warren Ellis return to Adelaide to play the first of two nights at the Festival Theatre. Powerful, emotive, breath taking and simply an incredible performance which will no doubt go down as one of the year’s finest. We’re used to seeing Nick Cave play either with the Bad Seeds or in solo mode but this his collaborator Warren Ellis has equal billing. When you are as exceptional as Nick Cave you don’t need a support and the words and music did all the talking for the next two and a half hours. Nick Cave, impeccably dressed and suited up, there are few that can match his class as he alternated from his piano going right to the very edge of the stage singing to those fans at the front.
This show had a strong leaning on new album Carnage created with Warren Ellis and Bad Seeds album Ghosteen. Opening with Spinning Song the magic had begun. Cave’s opening remark o his loyal following was that this was their first Australian show and to bare with them adding that what it meant to be back in Australia couldn’t be understated. Bright Horses followed and watching the interplay between Cave and Ellis was amazing. Ellis’s influence was significant and his backing vocals were majestic. The Ghosteen theme continued with Night Raid and as Cave praised his backing singers saying “fuck you guys look good” Ellis could be heard hoicking up phlegm and spitting it out in to a bucket by his chair and did so many times during the show.
Carnage was brutal and after White Elephant, Cave clearly concerned for Ellis, who was clearly unwell, in his unique way said “he’s got this thing, I love him, I don’t know if he is well, I tried to feed him something but he wouldn’t eat” jokingly adding that he would available after for hugs and to sign books. Ghosteen was great but backing singer Wendi Rose on Lavender Fields was absolutely sublime. Ellis counting in the songs was priceless particularly on the slow one Waiting For You. As he rocked back and the occasional leg flick in the air I’m surprised he didn’t fall out of his chair. Ellis is not only a class violin player but also enhanced their live sound with loops and soundscapes as the songs delved deep in to themes of heartbreak, loss and redemption.
As each song passed it was equally as gripping and compelling and it felt that Cave was taking us on a journey. The emotive I Need You really tugged at the heart strings and the T.Rex cover Cosmic Dancer was stunning. Cave paused and laughed watching Ellis play violin and flick his legs in the air again. There was a debate over what to play next with Breathless prevailing and Hand Of God was a tower of strength and one mighty powerful moment. Plenty of songs off Carnage played continued with Shattered Ground then Leviathan from Ghosteen to which Cave described a pretty good song with its simplicity. Balcony Man was an awesome moment where Cave encouraged the crowd upstairs to yell “Balcony” when that was song having said it was a great idea in London.
Returning for a massive encore starting with Hollywood and then an extremely old, “mid-period Nick Cave murder ballad” in Henry Lee was really well received. Into My Arms was full of emotion as the crowd sung that one softly in unison. Cave acknowledged that Wide Lovely Eyes was a difficult to play but pushed on as a dedication to his wife despite the frustration shown by Ellis. The Weeping Song, Albuquerque and Ghosteen Speaks brought an incredible night to an end.
Live Review By Rob Lyon