Nick Cave and Warren Ellis at Brighton Dome - Review

Every performer loves a hometown gig and Nick Cave seemed especially pleased with the love coming his way from his latest show in his adopted home by the sea.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 9:20 pm
Nick Cave at Brighton Dome. Photo by Jamie MacMillan

Every performer loves a hometown gig and Nick Cave seemed especially pleased with the love coming his way from his latest show in his adopted home by the sea.

Performing with collaborator Warren Ellis (pictured inset) at a sold out Brighton Dome on Sunday (October 10), he seemed glad to be performing again and enamoured with the performers around him and the adoring crowd beyond him.

He took to the stage with just the impressive Ellis, on synths and violin, multi-instrumentalist Johnny Hostile and a trio of powerful backing singers – T Jae Cole, Wendi Rose and Janet Ramus.

Warren Ellis at Brighton Dome. Photo by Jamie MacMillan

The set heavily mined 2019’s Ghosteen album and Carnage, released earlier this year, and was musically dominated by Ellis’s soundscapes and ascending, occasionally retro-sounding synths, and their interplay with Cave’s voice and piano.

It’s a thrilling, original sound, which frees Cave and Ellis from traditional song structures, and was all the more mighty in the flesh, with he muscular support of the heavenly backing singers.

The title track of Carnage is dedicated to Brighton, where it was written during lockdown. At times it’s like thunder and its beats are as big as its huge chorus – ‘It’s only love And it comes on like a train.’ Cave has said one of the album’s themes is ‘love as the engine of all things’ and it’s a sentiment which flickers through a number of his new songs.

Cave’s ongoing fascination with religion continues apace and at times there was a devotional air about proceedings, heightened by the sweet sounds coming from the gospel-infused trio of backing singers.

He described Lavender Fields as: “A hymn, probably,” and it has a lush pastoral intro which Vaughan Williams would have been chuffed with. The live version is re-purposed into a duet before all three backing singers get involved in an jubilant coda.

Leviathan is much brighter than its earlier incarnation on Cave’s previous album Ghosteen, and the refrain ‘I love my baby and my baby loves me’ feels like a mantra, and something which might have been influenced by Cave’s enthusiastic adoption of Transcendental Meditation.

But it’s not all sweetness and light. He’s still able to switch personas and belt out the devilish baritone of bygone days. White Elephant is a monstrous beast of a song with accompanying posturing, hectoring and threats (‘I’ll shoot you just for fun) and has the venom of the old Bad Seeds song Scum and the swagger of Stagger Lee.

Ghosteen, which explores his grief following the death of son Arthur, is still beautifully sad but feels more positive in the light of the Cave’s contentment and progression in life, detailed in exchanges with fans in his blog The Red Hand Files, and clearly evident in his emotionally generous and open performances. Elsewhere a few old favourites were dusted off – God is In the House, where the angelic voices and hallelujahs, sat side by side the ‘drug freaks from the crackhouse’, a rousing Henry Lee, and a spot-lit and always wonderful Into My Arms.

There was also Cosmic Dancer, the Nick Cave T-Rex cover you never knew you pining for. An inspired down-tempo uplifting number which in a perfect world would accompany this year’s John Lewis Christmas ad.

An utterly absorbing show. Cave’s mainstream popularity is moving almost as quickly as his creative development, and in Warren Ellis it appears he’s found a musical partner to support that reanaissance.