Nick Cave: I'm performing in Israel because of BDS

"It was important for me to come out against this silencing of artists," said Nick Cave.

November 19, 2017 13:54
2 minute read.
Nick Cave in Tel Aviv, Israel

Nick Cave in Tel Aviv, Israel. (photo credit: ORIT PNINI)


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Nick Cave decided to perform in Israel this week as a direct result of the attempt by the BDS movement to silence artists, the performer said on Sunday.

"In a certain way, the BDS movement is responsible for my coming to Israel," Cave said at a press conference Sunday in Tel Aviv ahead of his two sold-out shows Sunday and Monday nights at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena.

The acclaimed Australian singer/songwriter said that a few years ago, British musician Brian Eno approached him about signing a pro-Palestinian petition that called for boycotting performances in Israel.

"I didn't want to sign that petition. I didn't connect to it, I don't like lists," said Cave, adding that he's had a bad feeling, because despite not signing the petition, he hadn't appeared in Israel for some 20 years.

"That made me feel like a coward, so as soon as I planned this tour, it was important for me to come out against this silencing of artists.

I like Israel and Israelis and it was important for me to do something." Cave's current tour in support of his latest album Skeleton Tree, the first since the accidental death of his 15-year-old son, has been meet with superlatives around the world.

Simon Godley, who reviewed Cave's show in Rome last week for the site God Is In the TV, described him as "an incredible hybrid of Reservoir Dogs’ gangster, demented preacher… and phantasmagoric Messiah." Through the course of 16 albums since 1984's From Her to Eternity, it didn't seem possible that Cave's dark, insightful music could get any more chilling. But the songs on the resultant harrowing album – Skeleton Tree - are an intimate look into grief, not the fare one usually goes to arenas to cheer. But in the midst of his first tour since the tragedy, Cave has channeled his pain into a new level of performance art.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - 'Jesus Alone' (Official Video) (YouTube / Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds)

As Godley wrote, Cave's ability to grapple with ghosts and things we don't like to think about in public is a "fitting testament to both [his] bravery as an artist and his innate skill as a performer.

"He immediately takes control of the auditorium, stalking the boards and its outer perimeters like a man possessed, and his seismic grip on the occasion does not loosen thereafter not for one single solitary moment." For Cave, the notion of exorcising his grief in front of thousands of people has been an eye-opener.

“You know, the audience has been hugely helpful,” he told GQ in a recent interview. “And I find it difficult to articulate this to them, onstage, but… I would just want to thank them for this. Because for me it's, like, this is not the way it should be. I've always felt as a performer a sort of combativeness… I come from a different school of front men. Full-on attack. It's an attack on your audience of some sort. It's just the way it's always been.”

"Something different has been happening with the audience—a kind of dynamic, emotional exchange—that is quite beautiful. There's just some kind of communal feeling. Maybe this is what it's like to be in Coldplay or something.”

Of course, one could never mistake Cave's shadowy ballads and jarring punk-infused narratives for radio-friendly Coldplay or just about any other contemporary artist. Instead of providing a night's entertainment, he succeeds in revealing something of himself, and of his audience, at every show.

David Brinn contributed to this report.

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