“This is strange”, (this is strange) says Nick Cave as he takes the stage with his band, the Bad Seeds. He looks at the orchestra pit of the Verona Arena, where there were standing places. But there is none, because in fact the 4th of July was a bit of a strange day. Climate change, which in these days cause glaciers to collapse and fires to break out, are also felt in these parts, fortunately without serious consequences: around seven in the afternoon a very strong wind suddenly got up, which did some damage in the city and knocked some equipment off the stage of the Arena. At eight, while it had started to rain, the concert is even at risk of cancellation. Fortunately, it is done, albeit with some inconvenience: it starts at 10.15 pm, more than an hour late with respect to the programs, with the orchestra pit declared unsafe by the firefighters and become a “big fucking hole” (a big hole), as Cave defines it.
At the Arena there are about ten thousand people, who immediately let themselves be hypnotized by the Australian singer-songwriter. Cave, used to singing in close contact with the front rows, takes a couple of pieces to take measurements. And so after Get ready for love e There she goes, my beautiful worldextracted from a minor disc but of a good standard such as Abattoir blues/The lyre of Orpheuscomes one of the classics of the repertoire: From her to eternity, breaking latest news of a delusion based on sex and violence. The piece, released on his 1984 debut album, never gets old and is an essay on how Cave knows how to swim in the dark. From here the concert begins to heat up seriously, also because the singer breaks the protocol and goes down among the chairs of the audience, looking for physical contact with the spectators as if he were in abstinence. Later he will also go up on the side stands, where the unfortunates who had to stay in the pit have been placed (which hopefully will be reimbursed, in some way), putting in the usual theatricality and a bit of craft.
Another song that can turn on the public is the fifth in the lineup: Jubilee streettaken from Push the sky away from 2013, a more recent album but which can now be considered a cornerstone of Cave’s discography. As usual it starts slowly, but then lights up in the second part: it is a catharsis that starts from the darkness of the slums to reach a celestial light, while the songwriter’s voice immerses himself in the metamorphosis described by the song. Then comes the first intimate moment, in which Cave sits down at the piano and plays a heartwarming one I need you – sung with a slightly broken voice and during which the thought goes to the death of his two children, Arthur and Jehtro, and Waiting for you, in which he is joined by only Warren Ellis, also tonight tarantolato between violin, electric guitar, various pedals and loop station. Of the last record, Carnageplays only two pieces: the title-track e White elephanta piece on violence and white supremacism in the United States which unfortunately is always topical, as the recent Chicago massacre also demonstrates.
The singer then returns to the audience for Tupeloa rock-blues that compares the birth of Elvis Presley to the tornado that devastated Georgia in 1936 (we’re almost on the subject), and Red right handwhich became perhaps his most famous song after it was chosen as the theme song for the TV series Peaky blinders. And we dive back into it Higgs Boson blues, a Neil Young-style song built on another great crescendo and now another classic of the Bad Seeds live repertoire: while singing it, Cave strokes the heads of some, screams “motherfucker” and “boom boom boom” in the face of others and he puts his hand on his heart, whispering “can you feel my heart beat?”. (Do you feel my heart?) The surreal lyrics of the song, which evokes Hannah Montana, Robert Johnson, Miley Cyrus and a “simulated rainy season” keeps the tension high.
During the evening the singer-songwriter amazes with entertainer numbers even a little gigione (he repeats several times “thank you” and pulls out a “beautiful” even if it were Bono Vox). At one point he draws another gem from the past, City of refugea tribute to Blind Willie Johnson’s blues gospel, during which he gives center stage to his choristers, and after the aforementioned White elephant we are running towards the encore, since we have already passed midnight. Cave returns to the stage alone and plays the delicate piano Into my arms, which is sung in choir by the Arena. And for the finale he chooses Vortexa side b included in the recent collection B-sides & rarities part II. The artist thanks and the lights come back on, somewhat disappointing those who expected another encore. The setlist has been cut by at least a couple of pieces than usual, and what a pity to have listened alone Bright horses from the masterpiece Ghosteen.
The one in Verona was not a perfect concert. The lack of the audience standing, for such a performance, was felt. Yet Cave managed to compensate with his charisma, his songs and even with the affection for those who came to listen to him. When he was young, and the Bad Seeds were still called Birthday parties, his shows were a kind of violent theater of the absurd: there was drugs everywhere and fights were the order of the day. In recent years some of that darkness has remained, but a growing tenderness has been added. If Cave once fought people under the stage, today it seems that he especially wants to hug them.