BERKELEY — Nick Cave, namesake of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, was in nothing short of a generous and trusting mood at the Greek Theatre Saturday night.
During several songs that night, beginning with “Higgs Boson Blues” from the band’s 15th studio album, Push The Sky Away, Cave leaned into the crowd and literally onto fans in a game of trust as he sang about the God particle. He had joked just minutes before about the structural security of the set—several boxes of various widths and sizes beyond the main stage—saying the “treacherous arrangement” looked like it was “designed by children in order that I get a little closer.”
Cave then got as close as he could possibly get to the crowd throughout the night, even wading through adoring fans singing along during the encore to the heartbreaking “The Weeping Song” and inviting them onstage during the raucous “Stagger Lee.”
The evening could have been a miss. In September 2016, the band released its 16th album, Skeleton Tree, and with it, a one-night-only theater showing of the black and white film One More Time With Feeling, which followed the recording of the album and heartbreak that struck the Cave family.
In the film, Cave detailed his struggles to accept his 15-year-old son Arthur’s death from a fall off a cliff in 2015 and the creative process of making an album after the tragedy. He said in the film that his voice had not as strong as usual for a recording, but Skeleton Tree was recorded anyway with delicate tracks like “Girl in Amber,” “I Need You” and “Anthrocene,” all of which the band played Saturday night.
Between then and Saturday night, Cave’s voice had grown strong again for his 19-city tour. It had to be with the Bad Seeds’ 23-year library of ballads and bang-ups.
Cave opened the evening strolling onto the stage with the rest of the Seeds dressed in a black suit and white shirt. He sat on a tall chair and cooed “Anthrocene,” building tension with the lyrics “Here I come now, here I come/ I hear you’ve been out here looking for something to love,” while Bad Seeds’ backbone Warren Ellis’ laid a foundation on the piano.
The godfather of modern goth unleashed his usual growls, shrieks and howls in tension-driven songs like “From Her to Eternity” from the band’s 1984 self-titled debut.
Cave has punk rock roots as signer of The Birthday Party, active from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, and it showed Saturday. During “From Her to Eternity,” he belted lyrics and threw his mic halfway across the stage so he could get some dancing in. He ran to the piano and banged on some keys before getting up and screaming into the microphone again. He paced. He crouched. And at the end of “Eternity,” he and multi-instrumentalist Ellis jumped wildly.
The fans ate everything up and wanted more. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds played for nearly two hours before taking a break, hitting classics like “Into My Arms,” from 1997’s The Boatman’s Call, and 1988’s “Mercy Seat,” from Tender Prey. The song built and built with an unrelenting beat until the final explosive ending.
“Now I know what it feels like to be the frontman for Coldplay,” Cave joked when the crowd drew him out of backstage for the encore with a storm of clapping and cheers. “It feels great.”
The band ended its show nearly two and a half hours after it began with Cave in the middle of the crowd like a Sunday preacher singing the delicate “Push the Sky Way” from the 2013 album of the same name.
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