Although based in Brighton these days, Nick Cave gigs north of the border in the UK are few and far between. The last one was in the now sadly defunct Picture House in Edinburgh's Lothian Road during 2009.
With no support band and a relatively early 20:00 start time, there is a growing murmur of anticipation that turns to applause from the capacity crowd at Edinburgh's Playhouse Theatre as the PA quietens down and the house lights dim.
Despite being billed as a solo tour, Cave's 4-piece band (guitarist and violinist Warren Ellis, bass player Martyn Casey, drummer Thomas Wydler and keyboard player Barry Adamson) are The Bad Seeds in all but name. They take up their places first and start the bass rumble of ‘Water’s Edge’.
Nick Cave strolls onto the stage, dressed in his usual dark suit, to a tumultuous welcome.
In genial mood and jousting verbally with the audience, Cave responds to someone in the crowd who shouts "We love you" with "I love you too. Well... I'm think I'm learning to love you" and cracks a smile.
|I love you too. Well... I'm think I'm learning to love you|
Well, I've been bound and gagged and I've been terrorised
And I've been castrated and I've been lobotomized
But never has my tormentor come in such a cunning disguise
Cave's stage presence is such that it’s easy to forget the considerable talents of his band, until you are faced with Warren Ellis’ guitar solo on 'Mermaids' or his violin on 'From Her To Eternity', Barry Adamson's subtle keyboards on 'Breathless' or the rhythm section on 'Water’s Edge'.
His ostentatious discarding of the sheet notes on the completion of each song, and the interplay with the other band members (a gesture here, a finger point there) illustrate his irrepressible showmanship. He even pokes fun at himself in his amusingly slapdash xylophone accompaniment to Up Jumped the Devil.
|Take it away Warren...|
The encores (and there were 7 songs in all) see Cave leafing through the a swathe of notes and sheet music trying to choose some favorites to perform. He asks Thomas Wydler, the drummer "What's that song - you know the one where the audience singalong?". The informal nature of the choices and lack of a predefined set-list for the encores makes you feel part of a private performance, and Cave doesn't let us down. Every one is a gem. Finally finishing on the slightly pessimistic, but with echoes of Shrek, track: People Ain't No Good.
This was almost 2.5 hours of sheer entertainment and musical excellence. Full of sections of pure romance but never too far from a garage punk riff. The mixture of intensity, audience participation and stagecraft is everything you would expect from a Nick Cave live experience.
The Weeping Song
Red Right Hand
Higgs Boson Blues
The Ship Song
From Her to Eternity
I Let Love In
Into My Arms
Up Jumped the Devil
We No Who U R
The Mercy Seat
And No More Shall We Part
God Is in the House
Avalanche (Leonard Cohen cover)
Jack the Ripper
The Lyre of Orpheus
People Ain't No Good