Nick Cave Mesmerizes the Shrine: This world doesn’t deserve Nick Cave, but by god we need him! Every day we wake up to further news of war, social injustice, and the politicization of this damned pandemic and we’re reminded just how ugly humanity can be. Conversely it might not directly save lives, but music has power, words have power, and Nick Cave is a timely reminder of just how beautiful music and words can be. His concert with fellow Bad Seed Warren Ellis at the Shrine Auditorium provided a sanctuary — a warm place to bask in a mesmerizing performance.
From the minute Cave glided onto the stage, the L.A. crowd was enraptured. The paradox of the man is that he’s simultaneously intense and playful. His gaze can burn through you, even those sat at the back, like a TV Satan. But then he’ll skip, crack a joke, maybe laugh with Ellis a little at the start of a song, and we’ll all laugh along. He might well be the most charismatic bastard on the planet.
The set list, which has remained fairly consistent for the entirety of this tour in support of Cave and Ellis’ fantastic Carnage album, might not be one hand-picked by the majority of fans, but it’s perfect. That’s why there’s little room for maneuver; each song seamlessly moves into the next, like an orchestral performance.
The majority are pulled from Carnage and the most recent Bad Seeds album Ghosteen. So we got an opening Bad Seeds triplet of “Spinning Song,” “Bright Horses” and “Night Raid.” The title track from Carnage sounded absolutely epic on Wednesday night — Ellis’ synth and Cave’s voice becoming one and booming around this venue. A venue, incidentally, that could have been purpose-built for Cave.
Ellis achieves the near-impossible by occasionally taking audience eyes off of Cave. The multi-instrumentalist and long-time Cave collaborator is hunched on his stool, apparently covered in hair, often tipping back with his legs in the air like a laughing gnome. He’s an enigmatic soul, and clearly brilliant.
But those same eyes soon naturally bounce back to Cave. He’s the coolest of showman — playfully dark like Leonard Cohen with the cool swagger of Bowie and the vampiric romance of Peter Murphy. There’s even a touch of Jagger about his skinny leg dancing.
New songs “White Elephant” and “Lavender Fields” also sounded enormous, and we were treated to a beautiful “God is in the House” from 2001’s No More Shall We Part and “Henry Lee” (originally performed with PJ Harvey) from 1996’s Murder Ballads.
The 14-minute “Hollywood” was particularly poignant in this town: “We crawl into our wounds, I’m nearly all the way to Malibu, I’m gonna buy me a house up in the hills, With a tear-shaped pool and a gun that kills.” Fuck!
There was even time for a guest appearance from Flea, slightly surprising given Cave’s very public (and understandable) disdain for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the past. Apparently Flea was hurt by Cave’s comments, so maybe this was Cave making amends.
“Ghosteen Speaks” closes the set — another gorgeous example of the magic Cave and Ellis make together. And then we all drifted out, slightly dazed and still euphoric. Because that’s what Nick Cave does to you.