Newcastle Entertainment Centre
Sunday January 22, 2017 :
Driving home late last Sunday evening along the M1 after being blessed by Nick Cave, warm air being caught by the open windows of a car with no aircon, I am having flashbacks. It was nothing like I had imagined as I walked into the venue. I don’t know what I was expecting to be honest.
I have seen Nick Cave live twice in the past, at All Tomorrow’s Parties in the late 2000s, and with Grinderman at one of the last BDOs. My memory of these shows are that they were a one song shoot from the pit, and they were powerful shows. Grinderman was on a smaller stage which allowed Cave to create an intimacy between himself and the crowd. This is what I can remember.
Walking into the Newcastle Entertainment Centre, I cannot feel ‘intimacy’. “Nick Cave at the Civic Theatre“, is what I thought.
Tonight will also be a one song shoot, but from the side of the pit. In fact it was a space no bigger than a coffee table, with 5 photographers jammed into it. I have considered my previous two Cave encounters as being some of the most challenging shoots I’ve been involved in, and tonight, it was all that and more.
Those who were there will remember that the night began with ‘Anthrocene’, the first of seven songs played from their most recent release, Skeleton Key. Very intimate, Cave alone on a stool, centre stage under blue lights, his voice deep and inviting, softly beckoning all those present to take that final step forward towards him.
You become accustomed to artists opening the night with the ‘big lights’, so when an artist invites you in, coaxes you into the performance, it can be refreshing. Impressive to witness for sure, shit to photograph though, lol.
I expected it to be a tough shoot so I can’t be disappoint in that aspect. It’s just that when you sit and watch the next two hours of a performance that was quite mesmerising, you can see all those images, right there in front of you, all being lost. That’s my memories from this Nick Cave shoot…. I took the challenge and failed.
To be quite honest, Cave would not have been able to engage and interact with the crowd as he did, if he had allowed us shooters fully into the pit. There was simply no room, all of which was taken up with a stage-length platform. You ended up with no distance between the artist and audience, and a space which Cave spent the majority of the night in.
I cannot recall any other frontman, artist or performer who delivers in the way that Nick Cave does. If you had found yourself at the front of the stage, he was physically right in your face. Cave stalked the barrier most of the night giving these lucky souls an experience they will not forget. Viewing this ‘laying on of hands’ further back in the venue was no less enjoyable. It was a spectacle to behold.
The set opened and focused on Cave’s two most releases, Skeleton Tree and Push The Sky Away, with career spanning cuts appearing throughout the night. ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ was pure magic – Cave on the barrier, quietly inviting the crowd to come to him, to come closer and reach up to him – “Can You Feel My Heart Beat?”, he asks. With that, it’s all hands on Nick. From where I was sitting, it was a thing of beauty, for those in the middle with Nick, it will be a lifelong memory.
’Into My Arms’, piano under spot – it’s such a beautiful song anyway, but play it after having already won the love of the audience, and you have one of the many highlights of the night. ‘Stagger Lee’ appeared deep into the night, and it was one of the most enthralling audience interaction experiences I have seen. Cave just lifts the crowd, gets right down in front of them and leads them on this live experience. And its not just ‘Stagger Lee’, it was all the way through the night.
The night wasn’t without it’s lighter sides with Cave gladly signed a few autographs for those in the front, one of them mid-song on the lady’s forearm. There was also a cheeky request to the lady in the front row to, “stop touching me like that,” suggesting that it could be construed as sexual harassment in the workplace.
The visuals tonight were something to behold. There was a simple backdrop which stretched the full length of the stage, and then some, for projecting video onto and to bathe in colour. Lighting was used to wash colour over the stage and band, an effect that worked wonderfully with the performance.
I am so glad that I went and revisited Nick Cave last weekend. It exceeded everything I could have imagined it to be, performance wise, and met my expectations as to what the photo shoot was to be like. I think that makes for one memorable Sunday night in Newcastle.
Reviewer and Photographer : Kevin Bull