Music review: Conversations With Nick Cave, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Any Q&A event with an artist of Nick Cave’s stature is an unmissable gig for the most emotionally connected fan; yet one which might inspire others to just want to hear more music. Cave – now 40 years into a career of hard-to-match quality and sustained emotional power – sidestepped the latter question by splitting his stage time equally between conversation and an elementally powerful set at the grand piano.
Nick Cave PIC: Richard Nicholson/Music Pics/REX/ShutterstockNick Cave PIC: Richard Nicholson/Music Pics/REX/Shutterstock
Nick Cave PIC: Richard Nicholson/Music Pics/REX/Shutterstock

Conversations With Nick Cave, Usher Hall, Edinburgh ****

Since the tragic, accidental death of his son Arthur in 2015, Cave’s own grief has permeated his art and become a personal lodestone for others. This tour is an extension of his extraordinary online Q&A forum the Red Hand Files, a live “freewheeling adventure in intimacy” in which no subject was forbidden. Inevitably, however, some of those questions were half-formed, indirect or designed more to offer a personal forum for those asking them than for Cave to reply.

When stumped, he wheeled back to the subjects which appear to most concern him; songwriting, grief and the possibility of God. He rejects, he said, the atheist’s idea that to seek something other is moral cowardice. For those here mainly for the music, meanwhile, favourites like God is in the House, Higgs Boson Blues and The Mercy Seat nestled alongside less well-played Cave tracks including Stranger Than Kindness and Brompton Oratory, and covers of Leonard Cohen’s Avalanche and T Rex’s Cosmic Dancer.

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Amid it all, much like life, the unfolding process revealed some special moments; the woman who asked for a hug and broke down in her own grief when onstage, to be consoled with honesty by Cave; the woman whose memory of her own loss inspired a heart-stopping version of Into My Arms; and the man who asked a question about Cave’s capacity for fighting animals, winning much applause for breaking the sombre mood. - DAVID POLLOCK