Nick Cave is coming to town: Rock music's dark poet to perform Tel Aviv

Israelis are pretty indiscriminate when it comes to laying out the red carpet, especially when the guests say things we want to hear.

Nick Cave. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Nick Cave.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Let’s face it, we don’t get that many prime time acts arriving to perform here. But that doesn’t seem to bother us much.
Deep Purple or Air Supply coming for the eighth time? Bring it on. Take That and Aha filling out tour dates for their 1980s and ‘90s revivals? A winwin for artist and fan alike.
Israelis are pretty indiscriminate when it comes to laying out the red carpet, especially when the guests say things we want to hear. That’s why Boy George and his twitter storm professing his love and admiration for Israel, his Magen David-studded outfit and his nostalgic Culture Club MTVera oldies show were treated like the second coming of The Beatles earlier this month.
The same happened to a lesser degree with Alan Parsons – admittedly a respected figure in rock history. But thanks to his public denunciation of Roger Waters and the BDS movement he stands for, Parsons’s two shows in Haifa and Tel Aviv last week catapulted into major media events instead of the moderate ‘70s-’80s overview it should have been.
We certainly need our heroes, and more power to Boy George and Alan Parsons for speaking their mind and bucking political correctness by unreservedly aligning themselves with Israel. However, a side effect of the “we love everyone who comes here” syndrome is that there’s not much distinction taking place. So although fans of retro acts like Bryan Adams and Foreigner should indeed have every right to be excited over their upcoming appearances in the Holy Land, that joy is watering down a wellhidden revelation: Israel isn’t a safe haven for only pension-padding former gold record makers.
This year, at least three contemporary artists who are actually still critically acclaimed for music they’re making in this century have touched down in Israel. The first two already proved their mettle: Regina Spektor and Radiohead. And the last major musical event of the calendar year takes place next week as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds arrive for two shows – November 19 and 20 at the Menorah Mivtahim Arena in Tel Aviv.
Since Leonard Cohen died, the 60-year-old Australian-born singer/ songwriter is practically all we have left in terms of Grim Reaper poet – a performer capable of plumbing the depths of his soul in a way that viscerally connects with an audience. Plus he looks great in a black pinstripe suit.
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. Then his 15-year-old son died after falling off a cliff in 2015. The songs on the resultant harrowing album – Skeleton Tree – is 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.
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 exorcizing 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 radiofriendly 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. In today’s world of playbacks, lip-synching and form over content, that’s not something to be taken for granted.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds perform on November 19 and 20 at the Menorah Mivtahim Arena in Tel Aviv.