All Points East opened with Gorillaz headlining. Eight days in XS Noize caught up with The National, who were joined on stage by Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold. XS Noize also returned with headliners Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for the final day. Impressive warm-up acts for the finale included Anna Calvi, Sleaford Mods and The Smile, whose members include Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood.
The headliners played for over two hours, opening with the instant and catchy “Get Ready for Love”, which was perfected thanks to the band’s backing gospel singers. The melodic, positive, upbeat songs continued with “There She Goes, My Beautiful World”. Nick Cave, looking slender in a tieless black suit with shoulder-length black hair, captivated the crowd with slick poses. Cave’s unique projective voice made people feel as if they were being drawn into an intimate world of theatre as opposed to a large open air concert. When the Aussie ensemble played “From Her to Eternity” from their 1984 debut album of the same name, Nick was pulled into the crowd and carried on piggyback.
After more than revving up All Points East, more subtle piano-based songs followed, beginning with “O Children”, which Nick personally dedicated to his neighbour, Esme. “O Children”, which first featured on Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus, left the crowd in stoic elation as band member Warren Ellis played the violin. The emotive melancholy escalated further when Ellis duetted with Cave on “Bright Horses”. The most genuine and saddest song of the set, which moved many to tears as Cave performed on his Yamaha guitar, was “I Need You”. “Waiting for You” from the band’s latest 2019 LP Ghosteen also haunted as Cave sang out, “A Jesus freak on the street says He is returning”.
The cycle of beautifully haunting sad ballads abruptly ended as dark, immensely powerful guitars returned for the nightmare soundscape “Tupelo”. This song about Elvis Presley awoke the crowd from its tearful state as Cave not only sang about the King of rock n’ roll but the Sandman too. More popular music references were included, from Robert Johnson to Hannah Montana, who did “the African savannah” when the band later played “Higgs Boson Blues” to the crowd’s amusement.
From songs that brought out the crowd’s liveliness and sadness came the song which brought out the smartphones: 1994’s “Red Right Hand”. Suppose there was any question over the song’s popularity being attributable to the BBC series. In that case, the answer can maybe be found in the fact the crowd was mostly wearing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds merchandise, not Peaky Blinders. Not one flat cap was worn.
Before the encore, a fascinating politically charged song called “White Elephant” from the 2021 Nick Cave & Warren Ellis side project Carnage was played. “A protester kneels on the neck of a statue. The statue says I can’t breathe. The protester says now you know how it feels. And kicks it into the sea” brought home political realities without dampening an ecstatic mood which continuously elevated until the set’s climax.
The post encore set, which could have easily been reserved for the biggest hits such as “The Mercy Seat”, was instead devoted mostly to newer songs including “Ghosteen Speaks” and B-sides including “Vortex”. The consistent overwhelming reaction to all their songs from a catalogue entering its fourth decade is a testament to the band’s genius. The uniqueness of the key of Cave concluded the glorious All Points East festival on the right note.
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