Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Berkeley CA 6/24/2017

It was all about the Big Beat at the Greek Theatre on Saturday night.  “Can you hear my heart beat? BOOM BOOM BOOM!!!!” Nick Cave asked, leaning out into the audience, supported by them, one fan’s hand perfectly covering the organ in question. In front of a locked in and suited Bad Seeds he may have started the show in a padded chair with a stand of lyrics close by, but almost immediately he was up and stalking the stage.  He roamed and danced all night long, occasionally stopping at the piano for a moment but seemingly too keyed up and energized to linger there long (aside from a typically beautiful mid-set solo version of “Into My Arms,” which served as a breather for Cave, the Seeds and the audience alike). He navigated the front edge of the stage, commenting on its treacherousness, drawn again and again towards – and finally into – the audience, beckoning them forward closer, grasping their hands, pointing to her, singing to him.

Unlike a more confrontational Cave I’d seen at a previous show, here he was exposed and welcoming. Opening his arms wide, asking for whatever the audience could give him. As his fans I’m sure know his family suffered the worst kind of tragedy as he began work on what would become ‘Skeleton Tree,’ his most recent record. The set list included fully seven songs from the new LP, mostly bookending the show, and the songs have grown and changed as the Seeds have gotten their teeth into them, becoming bigger, sometimes louder, and infinitely more powerful in person.

Although I purchased “Skeleton Tree” not long after it’s release, this was the first time I’ve heard several of the songs. I won’t claim my role as a parent permits me more insight into Mr. Cave’s art or his feelings; all I can say is that the recorded versions of those songs seemed too raw, too deeply felt for me to willingly engage with. Live they were transformed, by the arrangements? The audience? The energy and volume? All of these, and the love – the love evident in Cave’s face as he waded ten rows into the crowd during “The Weeping Song;” the love evident in audience members with tears on their faces when Else Torp’s gigantic, loving face unexpectedly appeared on the screen behind the band and sang (via prerecording) her portion of “Distant Sky;” the love evident in Warren Ellis’s at times manic bandleading, feeding off his front man’s energy, swinging his instruments around with abandon, a grin visible amongst the Gandalf beard. It seems strange to describe a Nick Cave show as a love-fest, but that’s what it felt like. He brought us all together and gave as much as he took. It was intense, it was beautiful, it was challenging. It was a Bad Seeds show in 2017.


  • Anthrocene
  • Jesus Alone
  • Magneto
  • Higgs Boson Blues
  • From Her to Eternity
  • Jubilee Street
  • The Ship Song
  • Into My Arms
  • Girl in Amber
  • I Need You
  • Red Right Hand
  • The Mercy Seat
  • Distant Sky
  • Skeleton Tree


  • The Weeping Song
  • Stagger Lee
  • Push the Sky Away