Review: Nick Cave @ Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

Nick Cave at Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on 13 May, 2024 - image © Matt McLennan
Luisa is a travel, food and entertainment writer who will try just about anything. With a deep love of culture, she can be found either at the airport, at QPAC, or anywhere serving a frosty chilli margarita.

Nick Cave's solo concert in Brisbane, accompanied by Radiohead's Colin Greenwood on bass guitar, showcased the raw talent and emotional depth of these two iconic musicians.

As the lights dimmed and Nick Cave took the stage (13 May), accompanied by Colin Greenwood's haunting basslines, a hush fell over the crowd. Cave's rich baritone filled the space, drawing listeners into his world of poetic lyricism and raw emotion.

However, for those expecting a night of existential depth and evocative gloom, Cave had a surprise – he's really funny.

The Brisbane audience was on the older side, with many a silver head shining in the reflected stage lights. Yet they were also way too jocular with Cave, shouting out random (but positive) stuff to the singer, with one lady approaching halfway through to lean casually on the stage and suggest Cave play something she could dance to. Cringe!

Nick Cave.2
Image © Matt McLennan

However, Cave took everything in (elegant) stride, and made friendly fun of this outrageous behaviour. He dedicated one song to a lady in the crowd called Madeline after she'd yelled something out, growling her name through his performance as if he were deeply in lust.

He pointedly did not dedicate a song to another audience member, saying "I've never done this before, but I dedicate this song to NOT you!"

He had the final laugh, however. When finishing the show – and his Australian tour – with a cover of The Seekers' 'The Carnival Is Over', he said that while young people may not know who The Seekers are, it clearly wouldn't be an issue with this crowd. Touché, but back to the music.

The solo nature of the concert allowed Cave to focus on the lyrics, letting their essence shine. He described the process of making music with The Bad Seeds; how he performs a song on the piano for them, and if they like it they'll work on the supporting arrangements. The songs they don't like get abandoned, unloved.

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Image © Matt McLennan

The current tour gives Cave an opportunity to rescue these songs, and give them a chance to win their own audiences. Without the full instrumentation of The Bad Seeds, the focus was solely on Cave's storytelling and Greenwood's atmospheric bass accompaniment. This minimalist approach also added a new dimension to familiar songs.

Throughout the concert, Cave and Greenwood displayed an effortless synergy, with Greenwood's basslines providing a solid foundation for Cave's vocals. It was clear, however, that Cave was the star of the show, with Greenwood often retreating to the back of the stage to let Cave and his piano keep the audience's focus.

Greenwood had one solo though, on a cover of T. Rex's 'Cosmic Dancer', highlighting his extraordinary ability. While songs like 'The Mercy Seat' and 'Jubilee Street' took on new life, with Greenwood's intricate bass work adding depth and texture to the music.

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Image © Matt McLennan

Visually, the concert was understated yet effective. The focus remained on the music, with subtle lighting and staging that enhanced the mood of each song.

Cave's patter between songs lightened the atmosphere, with comments like "this is a broody song", or conversely and dripping in sarcasm "this is a happy song" leaving the audience chuckling. When each song was over, Cave theatrically threw his sheet music aside, turning the page on a new musical chapter.

There was only one "fail": When performing 'God Is In The House', Cave left a silence for the audience to shout out "Hallelujah!", as per the lyrics. Only one lone voice did, leading Cave to comment: "Well, that's f...ed. That song kills in America."

It was a night of musical brilliance, emotional catharsis, and surprising comedy, reaffirming Nick Cave's status as one of the greatest songwriters of our time. It was an honour to be in the audience of the final concert for this tour.

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