We’ve walked the same walk. Through the Great Hall with the rose window to the Palm Court. Down the wide staircase with the brass balusters with the Mediterranean murals. It is our local. It is Ally Pally.
Nick Cave was there at the end of June with cinematographer Robbie Ryan and sound engineer Dom Monks. The People’s Palace was empty, bereft of the public but magnificently lit. Cave sits alone by a Fazioli grand piano. There are just a few microphones to keep him company. The electric lights on the mixing desks flicker in the near distance.
But essentially it is just us and Nick. Not the arenas that he and the Bad Seeds have been playing in recent years. Scattered papers surround his piano. No sheet music. Just lyric sheets with chords noted in felt tip pen.
This is intimate. We aren’t in the front row. We are beyond that. We are above, around, on top of the artist. We see the rings on his left hand, his right hand bare. Dark navy shirt and suit, this is the singer, the writer, his music and microphones. No striding around the stage. No unnecessary solos. No engagement with the camera. No commentary. This is pure.
We get the piano ballads – Brompton Oratory, Are You The One That I’ve Been Waiting For, Far From Me. We get the stripped back band numbers, the ones that have Nick and Warren transforming and vibrating – Jubilee Street, The Mercy Seat. Look at him now. The more lyrically abstract work of recent years such as Higgs Boson Blues is represented too. This is unedited. The odd bum note brings a rye smile from Cave.
Papa Won’t Leave You Henry is a Brecht like pleasure at the end of the site. The theatrical ghoulishness that Cave is occasionally criticised for is cast aside. This is back to his years in Berlin. This is Cabaret but in a good way.
This feels like an event. We’ve had very few in recent times.
You buy the ticket. You turn up at the right time. You don’t watch it on Youtube or IPlayer at your convenience. This is an appointment, mutually made. The exclusivity brings a frisson of loyalty at a bond made, an investment.
It is imperfect. It is the present. It is the near future. It is the new normal.
It will more than do for now.
It really was a moment. I wondered if Nick alone would be too much (or not enough). But the songs and him – the stories, the characters, his voice and the piano were more than enough. A moment to share – alone. Lovely.
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