Live Review: Nick Cave at the Auditorium Theatre : Illinois Entertainer

Nick Cave (photo by Tom Oldham)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, IL
Friday, June 16, 2017
Review by Jeff Elbel

So much for the fourth wall.

Early during his concert at the Auditorium Theatre, Nick Cave blurred the line between the audience and the stage. By the end of the show, he had simply erased it. As the Australian-English artist sang the cathartic “Push the Sky Away” for the Bad Seeds’ final encore, the band were no longer visible. Hundreds of fans stood in Cave’s place on the storied stage, while Cave himself stood deep among the remaining crowd in the room. He was a messianic figure, supported by the hands of the audience and teetering on the backs of seats in order to see and sing above the crowd. The song’s lyrics provided a succinct summation of Cave’s gothic revival meeting:

And some people say it’s just rock and roll
Oh, but it gets you right down to your soul

The venue had transformed immediately from a seated theatre to standing room only as the show began, even as Cave himself took a seat at center stage to perform “Anthrocene.” Formidably-bearded sideman Warren Ellis sat close behind, leading the six-piece Bad Seeds from a baby grand piano. Cave’s voice bore terrible weight and religious intensity. The tone was well matched to the show, which drew heavily from 2016’s sorrowful Skeleton Tree album.

The chair onstage saw roughly as much use as the seats in the room. Cave arose, lanky and dark, to prowl the rim of the stage for “Jesus Alone.” It was the song that most directly addressed the 2015 loss of Cave’s teenaged son due to a cliff fall. The event had reshaped Skeleton Tree into a brave statement of intense grief, lending solace to others who have experienced tragedy.

You fell from the sky
Crash landed in a field
Near the river Adur

“With my voice, I am calling you,” sang Cave, as if howling to be heard in a place beyond the physical world. Ellis sat to…

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