Nick Cave and Warren Ellis 2.9.2021 Poole Lighthouse
Nick Cave on the doorstep……at Poole Lighthouse arts centre. Irresistible. To be honest the prices were a bit steep (£86 front half) but this was quite an eyebrow raiser when I saw it advertised and when you can walk to a gig it’s an easy win for an event like this.
Pre – gig options
The bar at the Lighthouse is a pleasant, bright, high ceiling affair (staff always lovely) which is fine if you want to get in early, grab a big sofa or comfy chair and beat the bar queue. There is a café downstairs and if the cinema is open that has its own bar which can allow a queue dodge and seat downstairs.
The options for pubs within striking distance of the Lighthouse are the Delfino Lounge, just through the shopping centre in the ugly Falkland Square, for a light cheaper bite without much company on an evening in the week; The George pub just round the corner – down to earth football watching pub to me or I’d go for the Brewhouse and Kitchen as best choice (top ale), also handy for the station. It’s about a mile from the Quay and loads there to pick from. The Lighthouse is just over the road from Poole bus station which is no more appealing than any other town’s bus station, and about a third of a mile wander from the train station. Parking opposite and slightly beyond at the shopping centre multi-storeys.
I often throw in some reminders of local facilities in these notes – more relevant for gigs like tonight, with clearly a bigger proportion of out of towners. This is a specialist crowd. A queue of 50-65 year olds snakes out, amid photo id checks and jab scrutiny, looking like they’ve been listening to John Peel for ever. Some vintage Nick Cave t-shirts, wild hair – plenty of grey haired gig-goers here – black clothes, trendy clothes and well worn boots.
Cave cred lacking
The Ghosteen album is something I’d been listening to a lot in Lockdown – released October 2019. An extremely sad and mournful album written in the years following the sudden tragic death of Nick Cave’s 15-year old son Arthur in July 2015 – a fall from a cliff edge, near Brighton, having taken LSD.
I booked to see The Idiot Prayer film down at the Lighthouse, where this gig was, last year but that fell foul of Covid restrictions in the end. Then came the latest album, Carnage, by Cave and Warren Ellis (an original Bad Seed, as in Nick Cave and the…) which is being toured at the moment. It’s in a similar vein: heart wrenching sorrow and painful darkness but beautiful at the same time.
Before that…. 16 albums that I haven’t listened to so something to explore I guess. I did see The Birthday Party support Bauhaus, with the Subway Sect at the London Lyceum in 1981, 25 June.
But this is light years away from the wild screams of The Birthday Party’s Release the Bats. As Cave said at one point – after a shout for some old classic – “we’re too mature to go back”. This gig was more orchestral performance than post-punk thrash.
Two intense hours – no support – which the ‘specialist’ audience was completely absorbed in. Like a performance of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra that I have been privileged to see here on occasions (friends’ season tickets) there was hushed concentration throughout, roars of approval after each song and the occasional charming whoop or shout.
This is in the main concert hall, capacity 1476 seated, with a large balcony.
All remained seated to the end except a dancing fan near the front right, occasionally restrained lovingly by her partner down near the front.
The nature of the performance was such that I can see the appropriateness of the phone and camera police on duty, although intially this caused me some concern as my blog is essentially photos I manage to take with some words of context. I am discreet I think but I didn’t feel I should breach the rules or the atmosphere. So there is just one photo in this blog…at the end when they said goodbye. Hence I thought I’d better be more descriptive.
Nick Cave wore a green tailored jacket, white shirt and smart black trousers. His slicked, trade mark head of black or blackend hair defines his look still.
He had three excellent backing singers, occasionally more forward than back, roaming to sing with him. Warren Ellis sat god-like: I mean he actually looked like an image of God rather than sitting in a god-like way… however gods sit. With his wild mass of grey beard and hair he sat with a small synth on his lap, just occasionally picking up his violin. A percussionist played guitars, drums and all sorts throughout; he too with Cave slicked back black hair. It is an unusual combination.
Cave flits between grand piano and centre stage stool and mic from where he conducts, to the band, especially Warren Ellis. At times he stood doing a restrained Nick Cave dance of old…almost as if there is an automatic twitch in the leg to bring the knee up.
The piano playing is clear, slow and deliberate while the Ellis synth is haunting.
Spinning Song is one I recall from early in the set. From the new album I particularly noted the strains of Balcony Man, then Albuquerque and the Hand of God. (That’s two songs I know called Albuquerque – I went there on the strengh of one.. don’t bother, try Sante Fe.)
I’m glad they played Ghosteen, the title track of the album that lead me to find Nick Cave in Lockdown.
Into My Arms a hugely sad piece… dark as hell although I guess you are supposed to feel better immersing yourself in this sadness. It’s astonishing stuff. This was an astonishing gig, unlike anything I’ve seen. Very different. Very dark.
Cave performed the song Into My Arms at the funeral of fellow Aussie Michael Hutchence (INXS), and requested cameras recording the service were turned off while he performed it.
The mood lightens in Poole when Cave asks the audience not to breathe on the band. The first night of a 20 odd date tour and ‘what chance have we got of making it?’ he chuckles helplessly.
Having recently been playing the Morrissey/Bowie live version my ears pricked up when Nick Cave, sat at his shiny grand piano, with his green jacketed back to us, started playing Marc Bolan’s Cosmic Dancer. Wonderful stuff with the line ‘I danced myself into the tomb’.
In the clip Cave introduces it as his best Bolan song ever…maybe the best song ever.
As the show comes towards a close Cave performs a with just him and his piano. A brief encore and the show is over – waves goodbye. What a master of darkness he is.
Go and have listen to the album Carnage. It’s worth it.
….and yes a solitary photo.