Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – All Points East, Victoria Park, East London, August 2022 – Just breathe, just breathe, just breathe, just breathe… Back to the park again, just back from being back in the park again, just back from a week that started with the triumph of Idles and ended with a set laced with so much emotion from Nick Cave and his brilliant Bad Seeds. Just breathe, and lets not get ahead of ourselves. Back to the park for the final day of what has mostly been a rather good All Points East. Not been there every day but we have been over there a few times in the last week, those Neighbourhood free days have been fun, that’s for another piece though, lets just breathe and deal with today (or yesterday now), the final day, let’s deal with Nick Cave, The Smile, those Seaford Mods and the rest of it…
Victoria Park is a real dust bowl now, the lack of rain and all those tens of thousands of feet have really done for her, she’s served us well this week she needs a rest now. Really really wanted to see Party Dozen and that Mutt Called Macca, alas the real world and work and paint didn’t allow. Kae Tempest was sounding impressive across the park as we came in (we could actually hear it from here in our bunker), those words floating over the trees and the rock solid ground beneath us, lots of push, lots of flow, Got in to a conversation with a girl on the walk home who reckons Kae was the best thing of the day, that there were so much emotion there in those tunes and those almost spoken words. Apparently, the set opened with Europe is Lost, now that song is something powerful, would have liked to have made it in time for that, sorry Kae, really sorry. And was that a pivotal moment we almost missed at the end of the set? There’s smiles on People’s Faces, it sounded rather good as we walked in, I hate being late, disrespectful, sorry (and sorry to Starcrawler as well, damn it).
Tinariwen looked and sounded wonderful in the mid afternoon sunshine, if you don’t know then they’re a collective of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali, they were perfect in the Sunday sunshine, their desert blues, that mellow but not too mellow guitar-driven style that combines traditional Tuareg and African music with Western rock music in a rather impressive way. And it has to be repeated, they just looked so damn cool. They sounded as good as they looked, they sounded warm, they sounded just right in the middle of the desert and the dust that is now Victoria Park, they went down rather well.
And from the desert blues and the beautifully mellow dust clouds of Tinariwen, it was off to the big blue tent and the adrenalin (and demands for More Adrenalin) from Jehnny Beth, quite a contrast. The contrast kind of worked although being in the breathless heat of that packed tent (where the sound was nowhere near as good as the outside stages) made it less enjoyable. Jehnny Beth, best known as Savages rather powerful front woman and for that rather good album she made recently with Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie, certainly had her work cut out after Tinariwen and well, maybe the tent was not the place to be today. Off to explore the small band stages that had proven to be rather rewarding last weekend with Willow Kayne and such, that and a much needed pint of Two Swans (we’re working here, refreshmwent is needed).
The rather fiesty sound of the The Dinner Party was flowing as we passed, need to investigare them further, they’ve been turning up in all kinds of places this summer. Anna Calvi was looking rather red on the main stage, watched her for a bit and then politely left her to it, too many guitar solos, don’t need no guitar solos even though they weren’t quite guitar solos, not in the awful sense of it, it was more about those atmospheres she builds and yes it was kind of atmospheric if that’s what you wanted and yes, well, we politely left her. The bits we caught from folk flavoured singer song writer Aldous Harding were pleasant enough, she’s kind of enjoyable, nice enough, what we’re really waiting for though, is for someone to really kick this festival off and she’s not quite what we want and this is not what we pictured, maybe in another place at another time and aren’t Spiritualized on soon?
Surely this is where things start getting serious? Back into that damn blue tent, Spiritualized time, grab a good spot down the front for the spaceman known as Jason Pierce and his crew. There’s a real sense of anticipation, a buzz building, a crowd gathering, surely this is where things start to get serious? But we’re in that damn blue tent again and the sound is worse than ever down the front, surely they’ll get it together in a moment, let’s stick it out, let them build that slightly psychedelic space rock flavoured wall of sound they construct so well, that blissful sound of theirs, that sun so bright. Ladies and gentlemen we would like to be floating in space but the sound is so bad down the front and well, really wanted to hear some of that rather fine new album live but everything really wasn’t beautiful. It did sound better from further back and we did so want to walk the galaxy with them but the shooting star had gone with the vibe and well, they were clashing with The Smile and the debate that many had been having about where to be had kind of been settled. Really wanted Spiritualize to demand we don’t head for The Smile and that new album is rather good and oh well…
Just time to grab another pint (can’t afford too many in here even if we did get in free again, perks of the Organ, hey, we work damn hard on this time eating thing, we deserve the odd perk). Just time for a well earned pint and join the herd heading for the main stage for The Smile. This particular Smile, for there has been quite a few, are Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood along with drummer Tom Skinner. Where they start and Radiohead end isn’t that clear, I mean, those distinctive vocals for a start and that way they have of constructing things, apparently they came together during Covid while Radiohead guitarist Ed was off doing other things, they’re apparently named after a Ted Hughes poem, something to do with the man who smiles while he lies to you, their debut album was produced by Nigel Godrich, Radiohead’s long time producer, it is a very blurred line. The Smile pretty much look and sound like Radiohead and like Radiohead themselves, some of it intrigues, they have moments that threaten to really ignite, and yes, they’re filled with fascinating possibilities that threaten so much more and I really should love them, they’re surely pushing all my buttons, I’m a prog head, they’re messing about with strange times and there goes a bit that’s pure Discipline ere King Crimson, and there goes a bit that sounds rather like Yes at their most side four of a triple album self-indulgent and prog rock, as you know, is as cool as flip and I love it complex and awkward, and that bit there is beautiful and that little section there is just right and like their songs, this sentence really should end soon and here comes the violin bow on (bass) guitar bit and how very Led Zeppelin of them. What’s wrong? Why do things feel so cold, so detached? Why don’t they connect? There’s no warmth, there’s no real love, there’s no passion, they almost annoying at times and I’m really really wanting to like them, I’m really trying, i really really (really) want to, surely I should love this? They do have moments, there’s things that stick in your head, You Will Never Work in Television Again is a highlight, a much needed different angle, and yes, I do stick around right to the end when I really want to go see those Sleaford Mods, and no I wasn’t just waiting for a Radiohead song, and they are so near to something and please people in the streets and The Same for a moment or two in the sunshine of the park sounds immense at the end there and Pana-Vision was delivered rather well, they did well to pull that one off, but hey, there’s a lot of people talking rather than listening to the music, people are looking at phones, are they a little bored? Are The Smile boring? They don’t really connect do they? Do they even want to? Is it all a little too aloof? A touch self indulgent in not quite the right way? Disconnected? But then Pana-vision is rather beautiful, it does hook you in a dark kind of way and it does stick around and that new one sounded good and oh I don’t know, some of it feels really fragile, Tom Yorke look a little fragile, like we should maybe worry about him? I don’t know, really wanted to like them, and in the cold light of Monday morning, I’m still not sure if I did or not?
And then the rush for those Sleaford Mods who must be halfway through their set my now, actually one of the features of the festival is the moving of the herds, like wildebeest on the great plains, vast migrations as sets end and new ones start, vast migrations from one end of the festival to the other as Victoria Park’s lions pick off stragglers, as vultures (or were they East London pigeons?) swoop on those who drop – actually that makes it sound like some Treworgey Tree Fayre hell (if you were there you know, those of us who were will probably never stop talking about it!) when it was nothing like Treworgey and actually for a big corporate event this is an excellent festival, a friendly festival, a well put together festival, ticket prices are a bit steep, that aside, and I know it kept many away, that aside this is a successful week of festivals.
The giant blue tent is packed now, things are really kicking off in the best possible way in here, people are moving, people are singing, jumping, smiling (people didn’t really smile for The Smile), it really is banging, Sleaford Mods are shouting, kicking, firing out their hooks, bloody hell, this is fun, almost a relief after the effort of Thom Yorke and his earnest mates, this is total control racing, nudge it! And really, if you stop and listen, not that you really can catch that many words in here, if you can catch the realism of their observations, their bleakness, their reflections, it should be depressing and something like the warm milkshake of nowhere, but this is some kind of merciful release and this is fun and Tory-tired people are jumping together,. bouncing off each other, Sleaford Mods are defiantly good, a great big barbed f**k off and boy do we need that more than ever right now! Got to catch a little bit of Michael Kiwanuka though, need to catch a bit of his soul, damn these clashes, we’ll leave Sleaford Mods to tear up a slice or two of Yazoo and go grab the last bit of Michael Kiwanuka’s sunshine…
Michael Kiwanuka‘s modern take on soul, his timeless take on soul, his unashamed pop, is perfect as the sun sinks, watching just a bit of him though the trees with the sun setting behind him is just so right, his heart is just right but we’ve got to move again, everyone has to, vast migrations across the plains again, look at them go, got to get set for the main event, get a decent place, can’t be way back and detached, got to be where the action is, time for the Bad Seeds!
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Wow. I mean, we were expecting good but just wow! What a set, what a performance, every one of them, every song, every member of the band, his backing singers, the crowd, everyone, every minute of it, what a performance, what a show! From the moment he let loose with a high kick and commanded we Get Ready For Love, from the very off we praised him! Seasoned Seed watchers, people who have seen him many more times than I have were insisting that was the best one ever, for my part, that was simply one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a lot of gigs!).
Get ready, get ready, get ready. what a performance, what a performer, what s showman, what a set of showmen and women, Warren Ellis is an absolute cooler-than-cool superstar up there on the big stage that Cave uses so so well. There She Goes, second song in, My Beautiful World, and we’ve all won, we’re all singing, we’re all smiling, Johnny Thunders, Karl Marx, Paul Gauguin and the rest of us, we’re all singing along, we’ve all won, and there she goes again. Songs, all about songs, but then there’s the drama, the performance, the fun! Who knew Nick Cave could be so much fun! And so damn cool about it all, he has us all in his palm. From Her To Eternity, he’s sounding so good, they’re sounding so good, so crystal clear, there was a time when festivals almost always sounded shit, this is so good, it looks so good, those big screens connecting us all as he works the front, not once did we feel left out as he held hands, as hands held his mic for him to sing (as he pulled off signing an album cover mid song in such an utterly cool manner). And the soul of O Children, the emotion, the lift, rejoice. And we’re only just beginning, they’re going to give us more than two hours of this including a rather unexpected and utterly brilliant Weeping Song right at the end of a four song encore.
Hey look, I wasn’t even that big a fan, kind of liked the Bad Seeds, got most the albums, never disliked them, not one of those diehards though, I’m a big fan now, that really was an utter utter privilege, one of those defining shows. Jubilee Street is story telling, Bright Horses is just beautiful – those bright horses of wonder, and just breathe, just breathe, just breathe, I Need You and can he get more emotional? Can we? Every word meant, just breathe and sometimes a little bit of faith can go a long long way.
And then the thunder cracked and look a yonder, and the King was born, here comes Tupelo and suck the damn thing dry, this is electric, rumble-hungry like the beast. We’re moving now, the sun is down, we’re in the dark, the sandman’s on his way, no bird can fly now, spellbound in the trees. Red Right Hand is a moment to catch breath before The Mercy Seat. Whoever’s editing the film on the big screens that have mostly been black and white until they turn red for just that one song, whoever’s working it deserves a mention, without showing off about it, the filming and live editing were just right.
And now The Mercy Seat is waiting and I really am telling the truth, and not a word of it a lie and my body is on fire, my head is wired and they stranger next to me is talking about it being spiritual, shouting about it being some kind of coming and an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and this is really how it was and I’ve got nothing left to lose in telling it like this and you may not believe me and we’re past the measuring now and we really need the euphoria of The Ship Song after that, how perfect is this set? Come sail your ships around me, burn all your bridges down….
Was he serious about “that fuckin’ Wilco t-shirt” down the front? And the tongue in cheek bit about the “sexual harassment in the work place” when someone touches his leg, is was his leg wasn’t it? And oh the joy on people’s faces all around, not over the Wilco t-shirt or alleged harassment, just the whole thing, the glances between strangers, the knowing, the nods, the smiles, those moments that only happen when a gig really comes together, and Hanna Montana and that shot that rang out during the Higgs Boson Blues and look here comes the missionary and you better run, you better run you better run to The City Of Refuse and we’re willingly dragged to the what the hell of it all, we’re all bad seeds now and…
The night is moving on, we’re deep into the set now, deep into the dark and there’s a sea horse on both his arms, not a Bad Seed song this one, a Mick Harvey and Nick Cave song, White Elephant, and time is coming, we’re getting close to the end, its all coming home, and there is was, suddenly “goodnight”.
But there’s more, of course there is, just Nick and a piano, just a close intimate thing with god knows how many tens of thousands of people stretching as far as the eye can see, Into My Arms and everyone almost whispering the line or at least gently singing it and a perfect encore and just the right ending, candles burning, a journey bright and pure. But he’s not going yet, the band are back out with him again and we’re almost quietly eased into that Vortex and if we weren’t all together before we certainly are now and all the songs just work so so well in the context of just being there, not like a mass, more one of those spiritual churches alive with that charismatic timing of a fired up preacher, and everything is placed perfectly and come on, come in, step into the vortex where you belong and he’s beside you and should this encore be just as right as it is? And then that whoosh of Ghosteen Speaks, that slow swell, wow again! The graceful beauty of it all, the grief and I am within you, you are within me and we’re singing to be free. And that was it, and we’re all content and turning to walk but apparently there’s time for just one more and how brilliant was The Wheeping Song at the end of it all, at the end of all that emotion…
And how brilliant was that? A week on from the triumphant unity of Idols in the same thirsty park, just now brilliant were Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds? Wow! Just wow! It surely doesn’t get any better than that? What a gig. Wow! (sw)
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