Fremantle Arts Centre
Thursday, November 27, 2014
There were food trucks and a bar with a very long line and a lot of people brought picnic blankets. You could have been forgiven for thinking that this was an MOR old folks concert, wherein the rapidly greying brigade pay too much to see an old band that used to pack out pubs and worry the establishment incessantly. But while Nick Cave has certainly transitioned, somewhat unsteadily, from cage-rattling iconoclast to national treasure, he still inspires fervour rather than languor – the crowd surged forward when the man and his band mounted the stage, blankets forgotten.
The opening salvo bookended old favourites The Weeping Song and The Ship Song between newer fare We Real Cool and Higgs Boson Blues. It’s tempting to assert that Cave was in a playful mood but, then again, he almost always is; at any rate, some of his fans have a tendency to take him a lot more seriously than he takes himself. There’s always been humour in Cave’s work, even if it tends to be dark as all hell, and the man himself was in fine form, referring to bandmate/muse Warren Ellis as “Wozza,” bantering back and forth with the first few rows and pausing every once in a while to good-naturedly rip a few strips off of Paul Kelly for no discernible reason.
The band – Cave, Ellis, Martyn P. Casey, Barry Adamson and Thomas Wydler on drums were a little rusty on this first show of the tour, but had a lot of fun with it, joking (or were they?) about forgotten lyrics and missed cues. The opening four song set was pretty indicative of what we were in for – a mix of old standards – Red Right Hand, Love Letter, Into My Arms, The Mercy Seat – and recent works, with the album (but not, oddly, the song) Push The Sky Away getting a good look in. We also got treated to a couple of deeper cuts in the form of Up Jumped The Devil and Lay Me Low. One thing we didn’t get, though, was the band’s take on Stagger Lee, Cave refusing to play the song, despite many pleas from the audience, on the grounds that they’d played the damn thing at every show for the past 20 years, and being at the one show where they didn’t’ would give us all something to tell our grandchildren about.
A four song encore -a perfunctory custom, really – ended with the one-two punch of a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Avalanche and live staple Jack The Ripper and that was our lot. It would be difficult to say it was one of Cave’s best shows, but when you’re comparing his performances the grain is fine. Certainly it was an awesome night by mortal standards, and a pretty decent one by Cave’s.