Just Breathe

I can’t remember the last time I went to the O2 for a gig (probably Monty Python). I always seem to forget the massive scale of the venue. What was more astounding than the volume of space though, was the show that filled it. Nick Cave has long been one of my all time favourite musicians. He is a powerhouse of talent and seeing him play live with The Bad Seeds has been an item high on my bucket list since my teenage years. My excitement was palpable and undeniable – especially when I read the sign greeting the fans at North Greenwich tube station.

TFL getting into the vibe

For someone that has been thrilling crowds since the late seventies, Cave still manages to completely enthral and mesmerise his audience. Such a vast catalogue of music to choose from meant there was no guarantee as to what they would play.

No support act was necessary as they dove straight into a set which thundered on for over two hours without much of a break. The time flew by in a matter of moments for us, but it must have been exhausting for the band. Cave seemed to give so much of himself during his performance, sweating profusely as he leaned over the barriers and communed with the audience, touching all of us while seeming to be simultaneously energised in return.

The giant screen taken up by the incomparable Warren Ellis

The set was dominated by the band’s latest album, Skeleton Tree which comprises mostly of haunting and heart-breakingly beautiful melodies expressing very literal personal pain. The album was written shortly after Cave’s son died tragically making the album’s sorrow palpable yet moving without weighing the listener down. An honest and raw performance of I Need You had me in tears.

These newer songs were punctuated with some old favourites including the classic and more mellow Into My Arms, a slightly menacing Tupelo, a rousing The Weeping Song as well as a foot stomping shortened version of The Mercy Seat, From Her To Eternity and a raucous rendition of Red Right Hand. A wild and extended version of Stagger Lee in the encore seemed to take on a life of it’s own as Cave adventured into the crowd and brought about 50 of the audience back on stage when he returned. I screamed along until almost hoarse.

Stagger Lee with audience on stage

What really hit a nerve mid-show was recognising the first few bars of Jubilee Street – the song that made me ball my eyes out in the cinema when I went to see 20,000 Days on Earth a few years ago. Just watching a live performance of that song on film felt like it would break me, and witnessing that stirring string crescendo build so elegantly yet equally aggressively was so profound live in the flesh it was almost too much. I was in pieces, and must admit I had to hang my head and sob.

Trying to pull myself together I had no respite from the weeping as they went straight into The Ship Song which has been known to make me cry even when I listen to it at my work desk. The final song, another tear jerker, Push the Sky Away, was lovingly performed, so tenderly sung it felt like he was giving us a parting gift before he disappeared behind the wings. He even handed the microphone to a lucky man in the audience to sing a part of the chorus. It felt so personal, like we were all given that chance.

The evening was over in a flash I am still processing all the emotions brought to the surface. I am still reconciling with my inner 15 year old obsessed with all things Bad Seed that I have just seen them live, in London no less. No amount of advance emotional preparation would suffice.


It was one of the most mesmerising experiences of my life which I will forever fondly remember. The incredible energy in the room was acknowledged by Cave himself when he casually said ‘Not bad for a kid from Wangaratta’ – his home town in Australia. It did truly feel like God was in the house.

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