In April, the onset of the pandemic cost Cave and the Bad Seeds the European and American legs of their world tour, which was rumoured to have been a spectacular production that would include a full gospel choir. Compared to, say, Laura Marling’s recent show on the stage of an empty Union Chapel in London, Cave’s solo performance was an extravagantly grand event that called on the services of the renowned Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan (The Favourite, Marriage Story, American Honey), a full film crew and an extensive production team. His wife, Susie, was creative director.
As the performance unfolds, you sense Cave settling into the songs, inhabiting them entirely as if immersed in his own private space. Jubilee Street, while not possessing the spiralling momentum of the band version, is nevertheless dramatic, Cave pounding on the keys as if willing it towards its dizzying conclusion. Likewise, a pared-to-the-bone Higgs Boson Blues retains its surreal, disorienting momentum against all the odds.
Throughout, Nick Cave speaks not a word, which only adds to the sombre, slightly unreal atmosphere. Only a wry smile and a quick laugh at the end of (Are You) the One That I’ve Been Waiting For? fractures the prevailing mood of quiet intensity. Though deftly edited, the film is a record of a single, uninterrupted performance. “You will not be able to pause, rewind or fast-forward the stream,” the website warns, as if acknowledging the strange hinterland this kind of meticulously staged digital event occupies.