Nick Cave released his sixteenth and most recent studio album with his band the Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree, two years ago, and though the somber, contemplative tone of his recent albums is a stark contrast to much of his earlier work, the intensity is still there in full force. Nowhere was this better displayed than at his show at The Anthem in Washington, DC on Friday, a nearly two-and-a-half hour long tour de forcethat that showed that Cave has lost none of his power as a performer over the course of his four-decade (and counting) career.
If there’s one thing that distinguishes latter day Nick Cave shows from his earlier performances, it would have to be his interaction with the audience. Cave opened the set with two tracks from Skeleton Tree, “Jesus Alone” and “Magneto.” With the barricade widened so that Cave could stand on it, he loomed directly over those audience members lucky enough to be at the front of the crowd, reaching out to them and seeming to draw energy from their excitement as they reached back. Though he was all over the stage throughout the course of the show, this was the position he would return to repeatedly. After a stop one album back at 2013’s Push the Sky Awayfor “Higgs Boson Blues,” Cave and the band turned to the back catalog, first to 1994’s Let Love Infor “Do You Love Me?” and then back another decade to the beginning of the Bad Seeds with the title track to his 1984 debut with the band “From Her to Eternity.” Much of the rest of the set was a tour through Cave’s back catalog, including “Red Right Hand,” “God Is in the House,” “The Ship Song,” “Tupelo,” and “The Weeping Song” (the last of which he performed from a small stage in the center of the audience). In between, Cave returned back to newer material for “Girl in Amber” from Skeleton Tree and “Jubilee Street” from Push the Sky Away.
The final two songs of the set, though, showed how much Cave’s relationship to his audience has changed in recent years, as he invited a large group from the crowd onto the stage, where they danced along with him to “Stagger Lee.” He then had them sit on the stage as he and the band closed out the set with “Push the Sky Away.”
The band returned for the encore with two songs from 1988’s Tender Prey, “The Mercy Seat” and “City of Refuge,” before closing the evening with one more from Skeleton Tree, “Rings of Saturn.”
El Paso, Texas shoegazers Cigarettes After Sex opened the show, playing songs from their debut album as well as a radically rearranged cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You” (which the band released as the b-side to their debut single “Affection”).
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Cigarettes After Sex
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds setlist Jesus Alone Magneto Higgs Boson Blues Do You Love Me? From Her to Eternity Loverman Red Right Hand God Is in the House The Ship Song Into My Arms Girl in Amber Tupelo Jubilee Street The Weeping Song Stagger Lee Push the Sky Away
Encore: The Mercy Seat City of Refuge Rings of Saturn