On his first solo outing without Mick Harvey a more stripped back, subtly embellished set was the order of last night’s show at Edinburgh Playhouse from Nick Cave. Opening with a brooding ‘Water’s Edge’, from 2013’s filmic ‘Push The Sky Away’ opus, the set moved through classic choices from all points of his solo career. Intimate in a way that would prove impossible to artists of lesser stature when playing an auditorium holding several thousand audience members the feeling was one of being in a private audience with the man.
The understated opening was swiftly continued with a sedate Cave-the towering Nosferatu figure from 2013’s shows retired throughout the show in favour of a more relaxed figure- seated at the grand piano taking us through ‘The Weeping Song’ then into a definitive ‘Red Right Hand’. Letting the songs speak for themselves the arrangements verged on sparse as Cave’s vocals in turn and sometimes simultaneously whispered, growled, seduced, roared and intimated as the mood required.
A rumbling ‘From Her To Eternity’ a rapturously received ‘Into My Arms’ an emotionally drenched ‘The Ship Song’ a filthy ‘Up Jumped The Devil’ an enthralling and absorbing ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ ‘Black Hair’ and ‘Jubilee Street’ were all major highlights. A rare live outing for ‘Brompton Oratory’ and a stunningly, radically reworked ‘The Mercy Seat’ also hit a spot few other artists can dream of aiming for never mind hitting on target.
This was just the main set and after leaving the stage for a few minutes Cave and his band returned with six encores including a beautiful cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Avalanche’ ‘ Push the Sky Away’ ‘God is in the House- with comedic interjections from the audience and Cave himself- before finishing on a resounding and triumphant ‘The Lyre of Orpheus’.
The sound throughout was concise and stripped back but reached climactic crescendos when required. His long standing musical collaborator, Warren Ellis, is obviously a major contributor in this and was justly recognised as such by the audience who gave him almost as loud a cheer of recognition as Cave himself received.
Definitely by the standards of Cave’s live shows this ranks amongst his finest. This time it was about the songs and the vocals and dramatic outbursts were few and far between but were used to great effect when needed. Definitely evidence-if evidence were needed-that Cave is a major player and belongs up there in the pantheon of the all time greats.