In the blessed trinity of Waits, Cohen, and Cave, Nick Cave is by far the darkest. I’ve adhered to the lyrical teachings and preachings of these iconoclastic troubadours for most of my life. Cave, for no particular reason, not as much. But after witnessing the man perform live this past Sunday night to close out his two-year-long Skeleton Tree Tour, I left as a true believer, fan along with thousands of others at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
There was some murmuring concern that Cave’s intimate intensity might get swallowed up in the large arena. It turned out to be unfounded within moments of Cave and his band The Bad Seeds hitting the stage with a blinding burst of anger, rage, and energy. The 61-year-old Cave proved to be a consummate showman, full of high kicks and microphone abuse. For nearly three hours, he was a congenial host on the mothership somewhere between heaven and hell.
There were moments of wild-rooted chaos where the band teetered on the verge of explosion and the walls seemed to shake. But there were also breaks in mood with Cave alone at the piano, just this side of anguish, as he dug into ballads “The Ship Song,” “God Is in the House,” and “Into My Arms” – which I was dying to hear, along with “Red Right Hand.”
Cave spent a good deal of the show in the audience, where he was regarded as a sort of savior in the throes of his own ritual. He gave all. Of all the shows in my life that have left a scar, Nick Cave is easily in the top 10.