Review - Nick Cave and Warren Ellis on the Carnage Tour 2021

It was one of those days. You know, where you barely catch a pee break? Meetings at work were back to back; then I snuck a covert bite to eat during a conference call, some lukewarm bread crumbed chicken pieces from the food van. The weather outside was gloomy and miserable - to be honest that's just how I like it - Autumn is my favourite time of year. I caught a smile on my face. It was at the site of a tree across the car park that's a pick and mix of pale yellow and lime green leaves. From that point on what I heard in my heard was "Fuck", pure anxiety; as the sat nav to get across the country continued to accumulate minutes as accidents and traffic piled up.


I hit a new personal best, sleep deprivation, agitation, stress, and anxiety. It's like I was going for the bet365 mental breakdown accumulator. Road trips have been an escape for me in the past, rock a playlist, crack open a cold can of Monster Ultra, stick the air conditioning on for a treat. I had let the traffic and the irrational thoughts of being late to the gig get to me. I may have flipped off a van that cut me up, death stared a lorry, and even huffed an angry and passive aggressive "Great!" at my sat nav; it only added an extra 15 minutes to the journey. Out of fear of resembling Chevy Chase in "Vacation" or even an irate Basil Fawlty I decided to focus on the music, music would get me through the journey. On Spotify I make playlists that match a mood or vibe that I'm feeling, so naturally I have a playlist called "Autumn". In the last few months I've been listening to Nick Cave's "The Boatman's Call" and "Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus" so I have a collection of my favourites from those albums.


For full transparency, my Girlfriend is a longtime Nick Cave fan. I listened to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds because some of my favourite moments with her have been soundtracked by his Baritone melodies; also she has Nick tattooed on her leg so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. By the time I arrived at my Girlfriend's house to pick her up my batteries were spent, I wasn't sure I wanted to go because the day had been that much. I scraped up some energy and we drove to Oxford with me in clutch with my 3rd can of Monster of the day. Nice.



Walking into the New Theatre in Oxford I had a total of 3 listens of the album "Carnage" under my belt, and didn't have a scooby doo who Warren Ellis was. I locked and loaded a Pepsi Max and my gf came in tow with a Smirnoff and coke as we wandered towards the stalls. The ceiling by the stage stretched up into a gold and burgundy art deco arch, smoke crept around a mahogany concert grand piano, and haunting hypnotic sounds bellowed out from speakers on the scaffold to the old fold up seats below. After 10 minutes I saw Nick poke his head around the curtain to have a look at the audience; clearly I get star-struck easy as I gasped "I just saw Nick Cave". Okay, maybe I was excited.


Nick glided out from the curtain, with a charismatic and confident spirit about him. He acknowledged the crowd and weaved around the stage with smiles and nods aimed at the band, and snatched the microphone like the mic stand stole it. Nick exchanged looks with Warren Ellis, who counted Nick in with his eccentric finger clicking - which involved waving his entire arm like a flag - and he clutched his mini synth keyboard and hit the first note.


Cave commanded the stage, the band, and the audience like a pastor on a Sunday Morning. He captured every drop of attention in the room and created an entire experience where time didn't matter, only being moved and intrigued by his words. Cave showed us the complexity and layers of his Voice, his catalogue, and Carnage. 'White Elephant' was a Rock track and upbeat anthem of protest that picked up momentum and pace, quite like a riot. At one point Nick Cave was stood at the end of the stage, pointing his fingers authoritatively at the audience shouting "I'll shoot you in the fucking face". Then played 'Carnage', a powerful ballad that carried a voice in pain, a voice that was like a wave of melancholy and sadness floating above our heads.


That was the magic of the night really, to marinate the audience in a feeling, to be consumed by a thematic sonic production like no other. Later came 'Hand of God' which started off much like Carnage, and then changed, the song flipped on it's head. It was one of the only songs of the night that I wasn't fond of; however, the experience on stage was captivating, my girlfriend described it like "witnessing an exorcism". Warren Ellis, completely lost his mind and body during the chorus and went ballistic on his chair that he had so carefully perched on throughout the show. Nick, at one point, went full Freddie Mercury on his knees bent at a 45 degree angle, he had hands stretched out to the backing singers raising their voices through the roof.


'Shattered Ground' for me, saw Nick at his most vulnerable. Just him and the microphone with the careful electronic tones from Ellis. There was trembling in his voice, the emotive words tumbled out of his mouth; the words were delivered deliberately, solemnly. We revisited some old favourites 'God is in the house' and 'into my arms' during the encores. Nick and Warren even delivered a beautiful cover of T. Rex's 'Cosmic Dancer', which wonderfully captured Warren's talents as a violinist and Nick's art of capturing a melody and sending it across the room through all of the audience's hearts.


Overall the gig was 8/10 for me, and I'd highly recommend that anyone who loves music that moves your soul checks out Nick Cave, I will definitely be looking out for one of his gigs in the future.

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