Nick Cave has long outgrown the status of a rock cult figure. His new streaming film presents him alone at the piano in a London concert hall – without any audience. The sad songs for lockdown times hit the heart.
It starts with a spoken poem – which is a good, festive start for a concert film about a song poet. “Once there was a song …”, Nick Cave declares with his sonorous baritone, then it’s about Elvis Presley, Las Vegas, the wings of a dove and dark love messages.
The singer, who was born in Australia almost 63 years ago and has long lived in England, walks through the empty rooms of London’s Alexandra Palace and sits down at the piano to sing his songs for Corona times as a soloist without an audience. The appearance from June will be presented this Thursday as a “global streaming event”. “Idiot Prayer – Nick Cave Alone at Alexandra Palace” should encourage those who consider the singer-songwriter to be one of the most fascinating musical personalities of our time.
The poem “Idiot Prayer”, which was recited at the beginning, comes from the puristic piano ballad album “The Boatman’s Call” (1997). Cave then sings the enigmatic text in a powerful voice right at the start of his 80-minute concert program. The songs are appropriate to the depressed, as so often with this artist also somber mood – sad music for a catastrophic pandemic.
“Sad Waters”, for example – the piece was first heard in 1986 on “Your Funeral … My Trial”, an early work by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. The singer left this congenial rock group, which still exists today, in accordance with the contact restrictions and corona spacing rules for his new concert film. Also Caves gruff second band Grinderman appears in the Alexandra Palace only by song selection (“Palaces Of Montezuma”, “Man In The Moon”).
The London solo concert “Girl In Amber” and “Waiting For You” are particularly touching – two songs from more recent albums, which the musician dedicated to his son Arthur, who was killed in an accident. These pieces, sung and played with enormous concentration, contain – like the monumental epics “The Mercy Seat” and “Galleon Ship” – typical facets of the songwriter Cave: sadness, fear, melancholy, pessimism, but also romance and Christian hope for redemption Complete work from almost four decades.
The film “Idiot Prayer” goes back to Cave’s solo performances from last year. “I liked to play deconstructed versions of my songs at these shows (…),” he says. “I felt that I was rediscovering the songs and started thinking about re-recording these newly developed versions in the studio on occasion. But then, as is well known, the world went into lockdown. The world tour with the Bad Seeds was postponed, studios and venues closed. And the world fell into an uncanny, self-reflective silence. “
The devotional cave songs from several career decades recorded in a very sparsely illuminated concert hall go perfectly with this silence. The 62-year-old with the pitch-black Prince Eisenherz hairstyle throws himself into his intense piano melodies, once he laughs briefly at a hint of exaggerated pathos. At the end, Nick Cave leaves the room through an open door – towards the blazing light. He always knew how to play with moods and symbols.
“Idiot Prayer” is the third cave film in a trilogy, after “20,000 Days On Earth” (2014) and “One More Time With Feeling” (2016). The hero worship for the singer and novelist (“The Death of Bunny Munro”) is currently at a high point. His live performances with the Bad Seeds were recently highly emotional, also tearful encounters between an artist and his audience. And recently, due to corona delays, the exhibition “Stranger Than Kindness” with around 300 objects from Nick Cave’s creative world was opened – a special honor for a rock musician.
Prices and further information on the streaming of “Idiot Prayer” can be found on the specially set up website.[Werner Herpell]