Nick Cave turns All Points East into his own cathedral

The Bad Seeds bring a career-best performance to All Points East festival in London’s Victoria Park

“Just Breathe”. The heart-breaking chorus from 2016’s ‘I Need You’ becomes one mantra of many in a set that feels religious – the most fragile personal emotions colouring almost three hours of raucous gospel rock in what stands as one of the best shows Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have ever fired up.  

Exploding out the wings like it’s still the early 90s, Cave is as ageless as ever on stage – erupting straight into his biggest church-raising hits ‘Get Ready For Love’, ‘There She Goes, My Beautiful World’ and ‘From Here To Eternity’. Bouncing off the backing singers and striding out over a sea of upstretched arms like a dark messiah, Cave is lost in his own spell from the very start. 

“I’m transforming. I’m vibrating. I’m glowing. I’m flying. Look at me now…” he wails on Jubilee Street – always a live highlight but somehow even better than ever here with a sudden shotgun gear shift in the middle, hitting the same heights again with the slow-rise chaos of ‘Higgs Boson Blues’. 

This, though, is only part of the picture. Now packing a back catalogue that spans almost 40 years, the Bad Seeds have seen Cave through every evolution of his sound and self – with the squalling art-rock of his most ferocious songwriting now sitting alongside something much more painful. Tragically losing his son in 2015, Cave’s later albums have cut deep into unspoken emotion, with songs like ‘Bright Horses’, ‘I Need You’ and ‘Waiting For You’ almost moving the singer to tears now as he feels his way back to their context on stage. 

Weirdly, the mix works perfectly. Giving himself entirely to every song (with Warren Ellis pouring heart and fire from his violin), Cave’s 2022 setlist is novelistic in its scope – unapologetic, unafraid and uncompromising. Lost in his hard-written characters just as much as his own memories, Cave commands the stage like the biggest anti-rockstar of them all.  

Taking an extended ‘Tupelo’ into ‘Red Right Hand’ and ‘The Mercy Song’, Cave shifts gears (and decades) again to close on the firehouse revival punk of ‘White Elephant’ from last year’s Carnage. Already having played for almost two and half hours, he comes back again for a long encore of ‘Into My Arms’, ‘Vortex’, ‘Ghosteen Speaks’ and ‘The Weeping Song’ – itself a mini-set of changing moods and passions that sums up Cave’s new breadth of sound. 

This is Cave the cowboy, the murderer, the lost prophet, the grieving father and the godless missionary in one. This is Cave the showman, somehow still getting better with age. 

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