We Were In LA For Nick Cave's Show Last Night - Here's What Went Down

23 October 2018 | 10:35 am | Bryget Chrisfield

"And some people say it's just rock’n’roll/Ah, but it gets you right down to your soul"

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“Thank you very much, we’re Cigarettes After Sex,” frontman Greg Gonzalez says and we immediately wonder whether they've ever experienced band name regret. Their sound features fuzzy guitars and songs are delivered earnestly. Cigarettes After Sex cover REO Speedwagon’s Keep On Loving You, which makes us wanna hear the original. At this point, there's a very pronounced kick-drum delay and hope this disappears once many more heads fill The Forum.  

It’s extremely fun having an Australian accent at a Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds show abroad. People actually ask if you know him. You could easily pretend you’re his cousin. 

What sounds like some of Nick Cave/Warren Ellis' soundtrack catalogue plays during stage set-up, which calms us before the inevitable Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds storm. The Bad Seeds file out onto the stage, Ellis raising his front arm in the crowd’s direction by way of acknowledgement. The eerie drone of Jesus Alone infiltrates the stadium as Cave stalks out on stage - peace signs held high above his head - wearing a dapper three-piece suit in dark hue, with nothing underneath (from what we can tell) and an expensive-looking thick gold chain. "With my voice I am calling you” - he immediately earns our undivided attention. A catwalk of sorts is erected behind the photography barrier for Cave to prowl upon as he eyeballs all in eyeshot, searching for 'victims' to receive his lyrical rage or suitable hands to later use as leverage to ensure he towers high above the heads of his sea of disciples. He favours those singing lyrics back at him; true fans more deserving of a brush with Cave. 

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We've all seen classic live shots of Cave leaning out over the crowd, fans' hands reaching towards him hoping for even just some momentary contact with the fabric of his suit. Cave summons his GA congregation forward and then into the centre until they resemble sardines, begging for Cave's golden touch during Magneto. Cave's surplus saliva is occasionally spat out onto the stage.  

For an extended section during Higgs Boson Blues, Cave shouts, "Can you feel my heartbeat/It goes boom-boom-boom, MUTHAFUCKER!" The Bad Seeds' man-gang BVs are extraordinary throughout. Do You Love Me? lurches and reels, and it's a given: we love Cave more than vice versa. Cave and Ellis have a chat and a chuckle before From Her To Eternity and this song's climax is exhilarating beyond belief: Ellis batters his violin in a distortion-pedal frenzy before Cave struts over and drops down on his knees before the hirsute force of nature many describe as Cave's muse. Cave then flings his mic up in the air and it lands right over on the opposite side of the stage. Somehow a music stand also upturns in the fracas and papers scatter everywhere. From Her To Eternity's conclusion is intoxicatingly insistent, the discordant beats hypnotic. Punters lose their shit over Loverman's inclusion in tonight's set, Cave on his knees once more to deliver, "There's a devil crawling along your floor," lyrics. After this track, Cave acknowledges "that's a very old one". 

The percussive gongs during Red Right Hand translate to sonic booms in this venue. Cave switches from his preacher-man-gone-rogue persona to lovelorn poet in a heartbeat, taking a seat at the piano for Into My Arms, which he begins solo before subtle instrumentation is slowly introduced to enhance the arrangement. It's a sombre trio when Shoot Me Down and Girl In Amber (with its harrowing Twin Peaks soundtrack-evoking undercurrent) follow, and a neighbour in the crowd explains she needs to go out for a cigarette since she feels emotional, having been suddenly reminded of a lost loved one. Then cue instrumental thunderstorm and we brace ourselves for Tupelo, complete with hurricane footage on the stage's giant back screen. The combo of Jim Sclavunos and Larry Mullins' drumming/percussion pummels. Martyn P Casey's sinister bassline feeds our overarching feeling of terror. 

Cave wipes his face on various items that are handed his way from the front section, turning his back and blowing his nose on one particular garment. Before returning another item, Cave observes, wryly, "That’s not absorbent." Jubilee Street gradually swells until we're struck by a sonic tsunami. Cave’s one helluva focus-puller, but his band is always there to back up his majesty with their textured, virtuoso playing. This song transforms into a blazing punk-rock anthem to close (no shit!) as Cave storms the stage ("LOOK AT ME NOW!") before plonking down on his piano stool milliseconds before thundering mercilessly down on those keys. 

During The Weeping Song, Cave hands his mic to assorted front-row fans, instructing them to hold onto it while he demonstrates the quadruple-time clapping he'd like us to supply on cue. Cave then penetrates the crowd, walking towards a second stage and teasing, "You’re fuckin’ easy! I fought through a crowd in Uruguay!" From atop this second stage, Cave conducts us - quadruple-clapping above heads here, yelling "YEAH-YEAH-YEAH!" there. 

After braving the human tide back to the stage, Cave invites as many crowd members as can fit on his stage to join him up there. We recognise the Stagger Lee intro and cannot contain our excitement. Now Cave has two sets of 'victims' to terrorise as he transforms into the song's vile protagonist "that bad motherfucker called Stagger Lee". 

Directing his spontaneous cast of extras to sit down on stage, Cave also tells them to put their cameras away. One lady simply can't help herself and when Cave clocks she's disobeyed him, he charges at her, apparently still in character as Stagger Lee, shouting, "PUT THAT FUCKING PHONE AWAY!" Said fan will probably have nightmares, but deservedly so; just do what the man says, already! We will never tire of hearing Cave's shrill, stuck-pig squeal during the tail end this song when performed in a live setting. Cave then wanders through his seated onstage flock throughout Push The Sky Away, selecting random burly guys to stand up and slow dance with him. Cave & The Bad Seeds leave the stage. Onstage crowd members - one of whom we notice is actually on crutches! - return to the mosh. 

Our encore kicks off with the barnstorming City Of Refuge. Cave instructs Ellis to teach us the, "Oh-oh-OH-oh-OH-oh!" BVs and then their set ends gently, as it began, with Rings Of Saturn.

"And some people say it's just rock’n’roll/Ah, but it gets you right down to your soul" - these Push The Sky Away lyrics perfectly describe Cave's live show; we leave feeling exhilarated and baptised by his brilliance.