1st July, 2019
I am sitting under a big oak tree in a tiny village somewhere deep in the Cotswold’s. The heat is rising and there is a welcome cool breeze gently tickling the hairs on my arm. I am shooting an outdoor wedding today and the weather could not be any better; ‘the hottest day of the year’ they repeat on the radio, I think they are right about this, the temperature is already 23 degrees and it is still only 10.
I set off this morning at 6 and spent the 3 hours absorbing and reflecting on last night’s ‘in conversation’ with Nick Cave. I have been a longstanding fan of his and I also live in his hometown, Brighton. The last time I saw him I was having lunch in a local café and he was with Warren Ellis just sitting opposite. My gaze kept being drawn to him and I felt very foolish as he looked straight at me and I pretended that I was not utterly captivated by his presence.
I digress, the format of his performance last night was a mixture of the audience asking questions sandwiched between Nick playing his piano. He began giving the evening some context and brief explanation of what it was that he was hoping to explore; ‘connection’ and ‘intimacy’. Simple, it was an invitation to have a conversation thus dissolving the barrier or space that sits between the artist and the performer. It was an extension of his ’Red hand files’. He confessed to how nervous and vulnerable this made him feel, how he had no idea where the evening would take him or and beyond the shows he has not thought how this might be expressed in his music or anywhere else.
I felt like us in the audience responded by reaching out to hold hands and together we created some kind of circle for him and us, a space to collaborate He literally was surrounded by the audience with tables and chairs on the stage with some people being a metre away from him. I have seen quite a bit of immersive theatre over the years, and experienced this idea of shifting the physical space of the audience and also of the conventional format and narrative narrative being challenged and remolded. I had never seen this done however with music; how well he weaved the two elements.
It felt like a dance he was initiating between him and us the, being passed backwards and forwards. He assisted this with the lights being really low down when he performed and in this moment it was just him and the piano. Then in contrast the opposite, full lights on the stage and in the auditorium enabling dialogue, we were all equal. He would choose when to break up the talking with a performance and it enabled a welcome bit of space around the previous conversations, it worked really well. The intimate performance was in contrast to the raw, open and illuminating conversation that followed.
I could ramble on for hours and hours about the finite detail of what he said and sung, however the most important thing was his humility, compassion and humour. He demonstrated through out what it is to be a human. My highlight was when someone asked if they could sit next to him when he played his next song; yes he said. They sat together and as he played ‘Distant Sky’ it was clear that the piano stool was too small and that this would mean them being pressed against each other, two strangers whilst being watched by a thousand people! As he started to play and sing to her whilst looking straight into her eyes she gently put his arm round his shoulders and this moment was to me the most powerful part of the evening. They were not afraid and instead moved and sat together. Just think about that for a minute, please click the link to the track and just imagine what that felt like and how intimate and beautiful it was… something and nothing, just being human. He cultivated intimacy for 3 hours connecting with each and everyone of us at the moment and beyond, what a gift he is, he really is a wonderful artist and human being. I left inspired, slightly tingling, and glowing. Nick you shined on that stage so very brightly and also and forever more up in the distant sky above.