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Nick Cave plays Fremantle Arts Centre

– by Lyndon Kidman

Cave by name, cave by habitat. On a suitably decorated stage this man emerged like a vampire and assessed the fans before him like a curious predator, catching eyes and casting his beam-like gaze straight through them in to the willing souls inside. All of this to the backdrop of an ominous looping bass-line and spooky pan flute played by Warren Ellis, affectionately dubbed ‘Wazza’ by the crowd; a reminder that despite the effortless sense of international cool on stage, this music resonates in the dry wind of our classic Australian culture.

As the show progressed it set in like a sad birthday party, where you come along with a jovial spirit to be met by your sombre uncle who’s seen some shit and has endless lamenting tales to tell you over a glass of whisky. Only Cave did so over a grand piano and a cup of tea, rolling out a couple of new songs to begin with, including Higgs Boson Blues (an interesting turn to science in contrast with frequent religeous themes), before delivering a set full of ebb and flow, wherein his lonely dark ruminations would freeze the atmosphere in to a gentle ambience and just as quickly, like the tipsy uncle at the sad birthday party, he’d whip the band up and have you bopping along to his series of wry musings gathered over the years and meditated in to song format. Among other highlights were the obligatory Wild Roses (sans Kylie) and a stripped back solo version of Mercy Seat, although no Stagger Lee to the disappointment of many, who witnessed the first show in years where that particular song was emitted (“you can tell your grandkids: I was there” Cave joked)

Just as suave as ever, Nick Caves enigmatic public persona keeps you guessing as to how much he’ll give away to the jesting crowd. It is indeed a curious situation when such a brooding and seemingly guarded figure is met with the happy go lucky remarks of a crowd of boozed up average Australians, however with such experience he maintains effortless composure and stands one above the crowd at all times with that impenetrable air of mystique, gliding across the stage and assessing yet accepting his audiences various expressions of gratitude. And for a gig at this point in his career, it would seem that gratitude is the overall sentiment deserved of Nick Cave, for so many years of holding up one of the darker corners of Australian musical culture. And for just being a top bloke not to mention.

Photo credit: Matthew Picken

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