Nick Cave And Warren Ellis Bring Ghosteen and Carnage To Life At ACL Live
AUSTIN, TX- Touring behind ‘Ghosteen’ and the lockdown collaboration album ‘Carnage’, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis captivated an audience at Austin’s ACL Live Friday night. The event was seated, but you can’t just sit to watch Nick Cave perform. The audience eventually made their way to the front and gathered across the stage to the complete displeasure of those who remained seated. I too stood up eventually and got a better look at Cave playing the piano and looking larger than life as usual. Despite sitting far stage left, Ellis’s presence wasn’t short of commanding, dynamic and wizard-like. The crowd’s motion and demeanor felt almost choreographed from afar like they were in front of a spiritual leader or healer that purged but also nurtured their woes.
Pt. I: The set began with “Spinning Song” from ‘Ghosteen’. A hauntingly beautiful piece, an eerie dreamscape of sadness and hope.
During “Bright Horses”, I understood some of the answers articulated during the 2019 “Conversations With…” tour about Cave’s spiritual beliefs prior to the release of the record and the lockdown. The piece heavily influenced the jacket for ‘Ghosteen’ (for me, invoking the opening sequence of the film ‘Melancholia)’, but instead of being a symphony of death, destruction, and punishment, it developed into an implicit and tender message of love being the answer instead of fear. “Horses are just horses and their manes aren’t full of fire. The fields are just fields”.
The gracious performance, compelling narrative, and undertones of the human experience trying to make sense of the horrors of reality by adopting a system of belief rendered the beauty of the setlist in regards to the ‘Ghosteen’ part of the performance. All of it exquisitely and painfully adorned by the beautiful backing vocals.
Pt. II: Cave’s piano execution makes one wish they had an aerial view! The ‘Carnage’ part of the almost 3-hour set was as theatrical as the first, with the album’s songs overlapping each other. A play where man surrenders and then tries to recover power over his emotions and circumstances but falls back to his knees…
Jokingly, Cave introduced “white elephant” to be about a Texas man. A woman behind me yelled, “we’re not all like that!.”
“With a gun in my pants full of elephant tears and a seahorse on each arm
With my elephant gun of tears, I’ll shoot you all for free If you evеr think about coming ’round here
I’ll shoot you in the fucking facе
If you think of coming around here”.
While the interpretation remains ambivalent and conflicted with sad and frantic elements fighting each other, we’re kept within the paradox of “why not believe in ghosts? ” “There’s nothing wrong with loving something you can’t hold in your hand”
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