Show Review: Nick Cave @ Moody Theatre (10.23)
When one watches Nick Cave, it’s really difficult to spin words out of that experience. He’s got decades of writing under his belt, whether that’s with the Bad Seeds, Birthday Party or various other acts he’s worked with; on Tuesday in Austin, he treated us to a touch of it all, sprinkling his gothic fairy dust over those in attendance at Moody Theatre.
For starters, I love the presentation of the set (you can find the whole setlist HERE); we were offered Nick, clad in his suit, his piano, and a similarly dressed Colin Greenwood of Radiohead. In such a setting, one can easily see how Cave’s personality was the dominant spirit of the evening; his soulful presentation resonated throughout as he wavered between personal storytelling and dry humor. All evening the lighting was simple, merely working to keep Nick just barely out of the theatre’s shadows.
After opening up with tracks like “Girl in Amber” and “Jesus of the Moon,” we were treated to a rare glimpse inside the writing process, as we were given a short ballad that never quite made the cut, though clearly still leaving an impact on the songwriter; he titled the track “Euthanasia,” though I suppose we’ll never truly know until its recorded. From there, the set moved mostly through Bad Seeds catalog, then to some of his work with Warren Ellis. He used “Balcony Man” to create a fictional divide between those seated on the floor and those in the balcony, though sadly the mezzanine was left out of the conversation.
The staged encore also brought special moments, with a rendition of the Rowland Howard penned tune, “Shivers,” from the Boys Next Door catalog. It also gave us my personal favorite moment as Cave dropped a nice little cover of T. Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer.” I think that moment is when it sunk in, as Cave, like Bolan, is a true artist that has few contemporaries. His writing can be dark and absurd, then turn touching, and his voice can move anyone to tears. If you doubt that, just ask Colin Greenwood, a world-famous star in his own right, who often could be seen side-stage, immersed in the moving power we all witnessed, lost in the magic of the evening.
Couple of notes from bgray, Nick almost seemed restrained by his seat behind the piano. At the end of many of the songs, he would leap up to get closer to the crowd and entice the response that the consummate showman seemingly craves. The other entertaining aspect was the flick of the songsheet when readying for the next song, spinning it the ground. Hopefully, these found their way into fans’ hands.
I left grateful for the night, fortunate to have the option to witness Nick Cave present his gift to the world. But, in thinking upon the night, I was also left with a bit of sadness. I can’t really recall any current musicians who have pushed themselves to the degree Nick has, and for that, I think there will come a time when great art will be relegated to the streaming services in lieu of rolling out singles. And in that, very few will have the longevity of Cave; its a reminder of his artistry and our own humanity…and for that, I’ll sit with the closing track of the evening, “People Ain’t No Good.”