Nick Cave released Skeleton Tree, his sixteenth album with his band The Bad Seeds, last year, paired with the release of the documentary film One More Time With Feeling, which documented the making of the album and the impact of the death of Cave’s 15-year-old son Arthur. In part due to its minimal production, and likely in part due to the context around its creation, the album is a somber affair, Cave’s most personal, confessional-sounding work yet. Cave waited several months to take the album on tour, playing a run of shows in his native Australia in January. He and his band started the North American leg of their touring last weekend in a two-night run over Friday and Saturday at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, New York.
Cave started the show seated, performing the subdued, half-spoken track “Anthrocene” which appears at the mid-point of the album. If any made the mistake of thinking that the entire show would be a down-tempo affair, however, they couldn’t have been more wrong, as the chair was pushed aside and the band broke into album-opener “Jesus Alone.” Cave prowled the stage as he sang the lyrics over the foreboding electronics of the song. The barricade between the audience and the stage was made wide to allow him to wander directly up to the audience, standing over them as they reached up to him. He spent much of the show interacting with the audience from the very front, leaning over them, reaching out to them, and at times even falling forward to be held up by them. He was rarely still, and he seemed to feed off of the energy the audience was generating. "It's good to be on tour," he quipped during the Saturday show. "I never thought I'd say that."
On Friday, the band played all but one track from the new album – the one missing song, “Rings of Saturn,” was added to the setlist to make its live debut during the encore on Saturday night. On “Distant Sky,” Danish soprano Else Torp, who sang on the album version of the song, appeared on pre-recorded video looming large over the band as she sang her part. Several tracks from the previous album, 2014’s Push the Sky Away – “Higgs Boson Blues,” “Jubilee Steet,” the title track, and (during the encore on Friday only) “Mermaids,” were also featured. But Cave, never one to leave the fans wanting, broke into his extensive back catalog to play a number of long-time fan favorites as well, including the title track of his debut album with the band, 1984’s From Her to Eternity and “Tupelo” from 1985’s The Firstborn is Dead, right up through to “Red Right Hand” from 1994’s Let Love In, “Stagger Lee” from 1996’s Murder Ballads, and “Into My Arms” from 1997’s The Boatman’s Call.
Sadly Cave isn’t currently scheduled to appear in the DC area, at least on this current leg of the tour. The closest he’s coming to us is Philadelphia, at the Electric Factory on June 5th. If you’re a fan, it’s well worth the road trip.