Nick Cave Alone at The Alexandra Palace

The energy and communion of a live concert has been one of life’s pleasures. The buzz and bustle of the gathering to enter the arena. The anticipation and excitement of what will unfold. The hideously uncomfortable seats and mediocre wine in plastic tumblers. The new instant friendships with those sitting nearby and the shared experience captured just in that moment. We sing, dance, clap and feel new energy and spirit. It’s loud, sometimes apocalyptic in lighting and visual effects. Tickets are expensive but if you’ve ” danced in the streets” with Bruce Springsteen for 3-4 hours, the economics are forgotten. There’s nothing like it.

In our Covid world this is sadly missed. But in crisis there is opportunity to experience differently. I have been intrigued by Nick Cave rather than liked him. This lanky, strange looking creature with his black straight hair, mask like face and immaculate black suits is other worldly. But he is a fine musician,  poet , composer, screenwriter and sometime actor whose words can slice through the mundane with their visceral imagery. He’s curious, compelling and captivating.

So it was that a friend sent me an invitation I couldn’t refuse. We’d meet at my place at 7.30 pm ready to set up for streamed concert of  Idiot Prayer: Nick Cave Alone at Alexandra Palace. We purchased the tickets online from DICE for $29 each. He’d bring wine, I prepared a platter of antipasti and we sat in the comfort of a soft sofa with candles lit. It was wonderful.

Nick Cave photographed in Kemp Town, East Sussex, on 24 October 2012 by Bleddyn Butcher

The concert was the antithesis of the rock concert or his Bad Seeds band concerts. This was the tall man in his beautiful black suit with his pile of music and a grand piano. At 8pm he walked to the big black grand piano in a huge venue bare of seats, people, scenery and only limited lighting changes. It’s Nick Cave and his piano. That’s it….except for his massive repertoire of music, songs and images. One and a half hours of outstanding musicianship, There is no conversation, introductions, chit chat. This is stripped back, bare intimacy. Many of his songs are  reshaped and reimagined for a solo performance. Powerful and enigmatic  Jubilee Street  with its slow build, still hit the heights of powerful intensity. Waiting for You pulls at the heart strings and Galleon is heroic.

We danced, we sat in calming meditation, we watched Cave’s long fingers with his gold rings creating beauty on the piano keys. We barely talked because it would have destroyed the connection of being participants in an exquisite musical experience. We drank good wine, ate sublime cheese, and curled up on a soft sofa as gentle candlelight painted shadows on the ceiling. After his last song Nick Cave stood slowly, stepped over the pile of music strewn around the piano and walked slowly out of the Alexandra Palace. His work was breath-taking.

We sat quietly. Slowly we began to talk about what we’d experienced. We would do this again. What a wonderful evening.

“All through the night we drove and the wind caught her hair

And we parked on the beach in the cool evening air

Well sometimes its better not to say anything at all…..”

24 July 2020 | Arts

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