Nick Cave returned to Austin after a short absence with a new format that was highly underrated. Cave is the frontman for the Bad Seeds- a revolutionary post-punk/goth band from Australia that has had 4 decades of success and over 17 studio albums. We’ve covered his concerts and he’s a true performer. Tonight was different.
If you came to the show thinking you knew Cave, you quickly realized that you didn’t. Over the course of a few hours, you became close friends.
The setting was intimate- the ACL Moody Theater seats about 2,700, and tonight there were also a few lounge-act style tables on the stage near Cave and his piano. Best seat in the house. It was the perfect place to dive into discussions of both grief and love.
He mostly played at his piano, sometimes taking song requests and flipping through his sheets to find it. But the rest of the time he stood on the front of the stage telling stories and talking with the audience.
The conversations of the night blew us away. It wasn’t a simple Q & A. The depth and intimate connections with the audience is something very rare today. We were surprised by the realness, sharing his raw feelings, palpable from the unspeakable tragic loss of his teenage son only 4 years ago. He talked of being in a scary place. Of not knowing what to do with his grief. The show is about turning that corner and moving forward.
Ghosteen- the only album solely written after his son’s death, is a new two-part album from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. The album was first revealed by Nick Cave on The Red Hand Files in direct response to a question from a fan.
One of the things that impressed us most, besides his incredible transparency, compassion, and vulnerability, was his willingness to answer every single question-and he was thrown some doozies by patrons who maybe were deeply depressed and at times a little hard to understand. He wasn’t offended by their sometimes long stories. He handled them with grace and humor.
Cave talked about his roots in Australia and the memories he has of living a free life as country boy in a tiny town. He talked about his mom and how she still gives him advice at 92 and how he still doesn’t listen.
When asked about his inspirations and influences in music, he shared how watching Johnny Cash when he was 9 changed his life and how meaningful it was to finally get to record with Cash (“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”). And at 14 how he felt different, disconnected in his small town, then heard Leonard Cohen and that changed everything. Topics resonated with so many and created a common bond.
He was briefly political (Austin is a safe place for this) when guns came up in the conversation. He pointed out how different Australia is from America- that when an incidence of gun violence occurs, leaders there quickly refine laws to prevent access to guns.
Some fans really wanted to know all about the songs and his songwriting process. Some were songwriters themselves and asked good heartfelt questions. Cave said all songs start with aloneness and that he is a true lyric writer. He sits alone with his pen and pad. His songwriting is influenced by his love of poetry. He said he believes it’s an artists goal to cross the line of going deeper and connecting on an emotional level.
One fan said ‘this is the only music festival in town’- referring to the massive Austin City Limits festival that was about to descend on Austin.
One question was about the song for “Peaky Blinders”. Cave expressed satisfaction with Snoop Dogg’s version of Bad Seeds hit “Red Right Hand” and he ‘loves being embraced by hip hop’.
With this tour, and the new album, Cave seems to be transforming beyond his grief into a purpose that helps others dealing with depression, loss, and more. Questions seemed to flip flop between lighter subjects and the darker ones. Cave knew he’d be getting questions about grief and his son’s tragic death and knows it helps others. Things got deep fast. One fan came right out and said “You healed us. Have YOU healed? How?” After pausing, he talked about the beauty and the fragility of life. For all of us.
Some were bold and asked for hugs and he invited them up to the stage and fulfilled their wishes. Cave maybe got as much out of this connection as they did. The embraces were real. Authentic. We had tears in our eyes throughout the night, as did many in the room. This was truly the most meaningful exchange we’ve ever seen between artists and fans. It’s rare. It’s vulnerable. It’s powerful in healing.
Cave’s sincerity is also evident on his website for Red Hand Files. Although he can’t answer every question that’s submitted by fans (he says he’s only answered about 64 out of 13,000), the fact that he offers a service where people could feel heard, and maybe, just maybe, get a response from Cave, is indeed special.
When a woman from Poland submitted her question about loneliness, it took him 9 months but he eventually responded with honesty and kindness that likely left her with hope and a feeling of connection (something we all need).
(excerpt from –viewer question) “Having spent much time travelling on this tour alone, it struck me that your question didn’t have to be answered, but simply acknowledged; that to reach out to you, as you reached out to me, could in itself be the answer and, perhaps, a remedy – to say to you, you are not alone, we are here, and that we, a multitude, are thinking of you.
In today’s society where so many feel alone or isolated, or are dealing with depression, the opportunity Cave offers with this tour is priceless. We left in awe of being a part of something so special and moving.
The Ship Song (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song)
The Weeping Song (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song)
The Mercy Seat (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song)
Avalanche (Leonard Cohen cover)
(Are You) The One That I’ve Been Waiting For? (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song)
O Children (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song)
Jubilee Street (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song)
As I Sat Sadly by Her Side (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song)
Shivers (The Boys Next Door song)
Into My Arms (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song)
Palaces of Montezuma (Grinderman song)
Stagger Lee (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song)
Skeleton Tree (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds song)