Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds performing at The Motorpoint Arena Nottingham on Thursday 28th September 2017

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds stunned the Motorpoint Arena into silence last night with a relentless performance that must be regarded as the concert of the year.

It was hard to believe that three years ago Cave was hatching plans for a greatest hits album and an accompanying arena tour as his final step up from undoubted cult success to the proper stardom that he so richly deserves. Then in July 2015, the unimaginable happened; his son fell to his death from a cliff near their home in Brighton.

And whilst a huge chunk of this set list was derived from their album released last year, Skeleton Tree, the songs are remarkable and potent pieces of work and even though most of the lyrics were written before Cave’s personal tragedy, the situation merely added to the haunting quality of much of his songs.

When he walked on to the stage, the packed Arena welcomed him as they would a long lost friend. During their two hour set, Cave was a man possessed. With his trademark jet black hair, dark suit and white shirt, he spent more time with the crowd than with his band.

Starting with one of three songs from the new album, Anthrocene was delivered whilst Cave was sitting down and with an arrangement that was even quieter than on the album, he immediately drew the crowd in. But the pace and noise levels increased with Jesus Alone and Magneto as Cave prowled across the front of the stage like a caged tiger.

After delivering an exciting Higgs Boson Blues from 2013’s Push The Sky Away, Cave took his first dip into his extensive back catalogue with raucous renditions of his mid 80s classics From Her To Eternity and Tupelo.

The six strong Bad Seeds sounded fantastic, as they delivered the songs in a nimble, supple, gentle, and sometimes brutal and daring way. With them all smartly dressed in suits, Jim Sclavunos towered behind the percussion instruments, whilst Martyn Casey and his propulsive bass was outstanding. Keyboardist Larry Mullins and guitarist George Vjrstica all added their touch, but it was new song Distant Sky that allowed Warren Ellis to showcase his gorgeous violin playing that would have broken any hearts of stone.

There was the excellent anthemic The Ship Song and the very intimate Into My Arms before Red Right Hand, a song which has gained a new audience due to its inclusion on the soundtrack to the BBC hit Peaky Blinders, went down an absolute storm. All of this and Cave still managed to accept a birthday card from a fan.

Finishing the main set with Skeleton Tree, Cave had spent the entire night jumping from plinth to plinth at the barrier, whilst receiving the adoration of his fans who all wanted a piece of the front man. And with the music putting them in a reflective mood with Cave’s signature sound churning out his heart wrenching ballads, never has the Arena been so quiet and felt so small. It was pure poetry.

For the first encore number, The Weeping Song, Cave clambered up the tiers on both sides of the Arena and began plucking people from the crowd until the stage is filled with fans for the spectacularly foul mouthed reimagining of the 100 year old American folk song, Stagger Lee, before he ended with the drifting, wafting and ecstatic Push The Sky Away.

Smoking, melting, boiling and burning were the words written in small script on the side of Cave’s piano. They go some way to describing the performance of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at Nottingham last night, and a competent performance of the songs alone would have been enough to make this show a triumph, but this was so much more.