ONE of Nick Cave’s best-known songs, his 1988 single The Mercy Seat, sat in the midst of his 23-song set at The Sage Gateshead last night.
It was another seat that had more of a bearing on proceedings, however – the Australian rock veteran’s piano stool.
As is the 57-year-old’s wont when not accompanied by his backing band, the Bad Seeds, he remained seated for most of his 90-minute main set.
However, he did get to his feet for much of the seven songs played during a further 45 minutes’ worth of encores.
Cave was able to conjure up drama aplenty despite being largely static, however.
A ferocious solo version of The Mercy Seat was a prime example of thi, and when not at his piano, he more than made up for any lack of movement, even venturing into the capacity crowd at one point.
He was accompanied by four members of the Bad Seeds past and present this time round – Barry Adamson on keyboards, Thomas Wydler on drums, Martin Casey on bass, and Warren Ellis on guitar and violin – but they were used sparingly throughout, making their contributions all the more telling when called upon.
Cave’s last album, 2013’s Push The Sky Away, a No 3 hit, accounted for a sizeable chunk of his set, seven of its nine songs being trotted out.
The bookends formed by opening number Water’s Edge and final encore Push The Sky Away apart, both being a bit too sluggish to either warm a crowd up or round things off satisfactorily, all worked well, the singles We Know Who U R and Jubilee Street being particular highlights.
The rest of the set took its cue from the stately pace of that last album, his 15th, only rarely venturing uptempo for spirited romps through the likes of his 1992 single Jack The Ripper and the 1988 album track Up Jumped The Devil.
This was Cave’s first visit to The Sage for a decade and only his second-ever show there, but much of his setlist will have been familiar to those present last time round.
No fewer than seven of the 17 songs he played last time were given another airing, The Mercy Seat and Jack The Ripper included.
The others were 2004’s The Lyre of Orpheus and Babe, You Turn Me On, 2001’s God Is In The House and two of the best tracks of the night, 1990’s The Ship Song and 1995’s Red Right Hand.
The former, though a bolt out of the blue at the time, set the template for the torch songs that would come to form much of Cave’s material, and it fitted in perfectly with the rest of last night’s set, as did a lovely version of the 1997 single Into My Arms.
Red Right Hand, third up on the evening, sounded every inch the horror movie theme it was to become, forming a nice contrast with the relaxed, genial banter on offer from Cave between songs, including a crowd-pleasing insertion of Newcastle and Gateshead into the lyrics of God Is In The House.
That mix of stillness and drama made for one of the best concerts hosted by The Sage since Cave’s last visit, which was a year after its opening.
It is only to be hoped that he doesn’t allow another 10 years to pass by before coming back.