Last week Ballarat played host to Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds for the start of his mainland Australian tour – and he didn’t let the town nor the thousands of fans down.
It was two years since Cave last toured Australia. A period punctuated by the recording of his latest album Skeleton Tree, death of his son and subsequent documentary which brought the two events together: One More Time With Feeling. It had been a tough two years for Nick Cave, but on Sunday night he put on one of his best shows.
As the sun slowly set over the North Gardens beside Lake Wendouree, with over 5,000 fans crammed into the outdoor stage, Cave started the concert with brooding ‘Anthrocene’ from his latest album.
Two songs in, he quietly welcomed the audience before launching into a blistering rendition of ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ that had the crowd jumping and ducks flying away in fright. After half a dozen songs from his last two albums, Cave went for a quick trip down memory lane with crowd favourites ‘From Her to Eternity’, ‘The Ship Song’ and the thundering ballad ‘Tupelo’.
Cave’s partner in crime, the bearded Warren Ellis is a Ballarat local. A fact not lost on Cave who between songs shared stories about Ellis and his Ballarat roots.
At one stage he had the audience in fits of laughter describing their dinner the previous evening at a local fish and chip shop, then it was back to the serious business of music. ‘Into my Arms’ followed in time by the heart wrenching ‘I Need You’ – which attempted to explore and explain his sense of loss from 2015.
Next came the remarkable ‘Distant Sky’ featuring screen projected backing vocals and an encore of hits that left the crowd hollering for more.
By 11.00pm it was all over. Cave was gone as the stars shone brightly above the Ballarat sky. There is something special about an outdoor concert. And something even more special when it’s Nick Cave under the stars by a lake with the moon slowly rising in the distance.
North Gardens, Ballarat – Sunday, January 15
Reviewed by John Foss