Nick Cave at The State Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota 10-3-2023
This was my first time seeing Nick Cave, an artist I have listened to most of my adult life. Now, I have not seen him with his band The Bad Seeds, and I am sure when I do that will probably top this show, but was looking forward to my first experience with Cave in this setting and setup and after it was over, I was glad I saw him like this first.
The stage only had a piano with a lamp on it and a bass right off to the side for his only bandmate for the evening, Colin Greenwood, the bassist from Radiohead. Cave entered and performed “Girl In Amber” off of Skeleton Tree from 2016. He then stood front and center and spoke to the audience, explaining that they are digging into some of these songs at their core and that it may be a challenge for the listener at times and that focus is kind of the key here. He then bantered humorously with his first loud audience member who had to shout their song they wanted to hear. He admonished them jokingly telling them that-that was not the right time to do that. This would go on throughout the night and showed that he was having fun doing this, and also added a little humor and broke up the dark and somber mood of the songs and the show.
The first batch of songs, were probably challenging for some as they were for the most part deeper cuts like Higgs Boson Blues from 2013’s Push The Sky Away, which is going back in rotation for me after hearing that live. When he got to 2004’s “O’ Children’ (which was in a Harry Potter movie I think) he dedicated it to a father he had received a letter from who asked for the song to be dedicated to his “son who was a girl’. I think I heard that right, and Nick commented on how poignent the letter was. He didn’t explain it, but dedicated the song to that perosn.
I think Cave’s most vulnerable and truly emotional moment of the night came during the song “I Need You” off of Skeleton Tree. He recorded this song shortly after the death of his 15 year old son Arthur. Toward the end of the song he heartbreakingly sings “just breathe” over and over again getting quieter and with more aching and giving in-in his voice. He followed that up with one of my favorite Nick Cave songs “Papa Won’t Leave You Henry” off of 1992’s Henry’s Dream. It was at this point that the set started to become more songs he is known for and some surprises and we ended up with a better setlist and selection of songs that the other shows I looked at on this tour.
He did ‘Balcony Man” off of 2021’s Carnage album and he had the people in the balcony scream every time he said the word “balcony”, which was a lot. That was fun. At this point a woman in the back screamed that she drove from Mexico City to see him. He kind of sarcastically acknowledged this and said this next song was for her and everyone who traveled far to the show and that it was a song called “Carnage”. Funny. He then did a stunning, raw and genuine version of “Waiting For You” from 2019’s Ghosteen, which was one of the highlights of a night full of them. Up next was “Mercy Seat” from 1988’s Tender Prey album, which was mindblowing in this setting. This was followed by “(Are You) The One I Have Been Waiting For” from 1997’s The Boatman’s Call album, “The Weeping Song” from 1990’s The Good Son, “Into My Arms” from The Boatman’s Call, and “Jubilee Street” and “Push The Sky Away” from the Push The Sky Away Album.
Every song in that last batch would have and could have been the highlight of the night and getting them one after another was almost overwhelming. He would then come back for an encore and take requests. Most shows I have seen had pretty much the same songs during this part of the night. We got some of those including an amazing version of T. Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer” and the “Palaces Of Montezuma” from his band Grinderman. The surprises were 1979’s “Shivers” from Nick’s first band The Boys Next Door and “Nobody’s Baby Now” from 1994’s “Let Love In”. He also closed with fan favorite “The Ship Song” from The Good Son.
It was a beautiful performance that was full of fun banter, twenty-five stunning dark and somber songs that somehow kept our rapt attention and covered such a wide breadth of Cave’s career. He ended the night stating that he would be back next year….with the Bad Seeds. We can only hope.