This was one of those rare occasions where a delayed start to proceedings was a welcome relief. The kick off was pushed back due to the massive queues caused by understandable increased security measures at Manchester Arena. Every single person caught up in these monster lines will have been extremely grateful that their patience was rewarded, as on the rare occasion that somebody of the caliber of Nick Cave comes to town you wouldn’t want to miss a second of it.
With no support act required Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds strolled out to a huge ovation and opened with “Anthrocene” from their latest album “Skeleton Tree”. It was the first sign that this latest album would feature heavily in the setlist, fans favourites were occasionally interspersed. After the recent release of their greatest hits album, “Lovely Creatures”, many may have been expecting more of the hits than were present, but after what turned out to be a performance of inspirational highs and unsurpassable brilliance nobody had any complaints.
“Anthrocene” was followed by ”Jesus Alone” and “Magento” which both highlighted just why, musical genius aside, Cave is such a compelling and mesmerizing character. He looms over the audience from his specially constructed platforms in front of the standing crowd. As he towers above them he provides an interesting juxtaposition, he is simultaneously a messianic figure whilst also being at one with his fans. His sexy wild-man gestures invigorate the audience as he then strikes a stance to receive their adoration, before beckoning them closer to him in a show of unity as both performer and audience metaphorically, and sometimes physically, embrace each other. He is conducting the audience to promote the desired reaction to enhance their experience, while Warren Ellis is conducting the rest of The Bad Seeds behind him.
A selection of classics from their back-catalogue which all feature on “Lovely Creatures”, including “Higgs Boson Blues”, “From Her To Eternity” and “Jubilee Street”, then followed. This part of the performance showcased not only why these tracks were so compelling at the time they were recorded, but also how creative wizards like Cave, Ellis and company are constantly evolving and expanding on their already fine work. Each live performance took these tracks to new and even more exciting levels, “From Her To Eternity” became infinitely more forceful and powerful, “Tupelo” became equally as explosive. The real stand out moment, amongst a plethora of shining lights, was their enhanced rendition of “Jubilee Street” which built towards an emphatic and rousing climax. Later, a version of “Red Right Hand” appeared that managed to be even more menacing and dark than the recording.
On top of the whole band’s flawless performance, and Cave’s enthralling stage persona, Nick Cave also showed himself to be a warm and humble human being. He repeatedly mentioned how much it meant to them to be performing here in front of such a large crowd. As much as it clearly meant to the band it meant far more to “the bad seeds” in the audience, and Cave made a great effort to allow them to be as much a part of it as possible. During “Tupelo” he lifted a young lad from the front of the standing area up to the stage, the lad then proceeded to steal the show by knowing every single word to a track which must have been released long before he was born. Cave seemed visibly upset while performing “Distant Sky”, perhaps finding the emotionally poignant and deeply personal lyrics more difficult than the others from “Skeleton Tree”. Ever concerned with enhancing the evening for his fans Cave didn’t allow this to affect the rest of his performance as he then cranked it up a further gear for the encore. The night reached it’s crescendo went Cave individually invited audience members to invade the stage for a thunderous performance of “Stagger Lee”.