The other week I was in Rome with my bella donna. It was a chance to get away for a break, drink perfect cappuccinos, vini rossi, eat good food, and, to see Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.
Yes, we saw some of the sites, (the Colosseum; Trevi Fountain). We entered the Vatican city. We walked and grazed on prosciutto and salamis; sipped on beverages both warm and cold, refreshing and mind-altering; and damn yes: those cappuccinos were top freakin’ notch! But the highlight was definitely seeing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
The concert was at the Auditorium Parco della Musica. It’s a sit-down venue… Yes. A sit-down venue. For a Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds concert… Arriving and taking our seats, third row middle (big thumbs up and thanks to those of you who organized that: #WeNoWhoUR) I was concerned, to say the least. How, I asked myself, was it going to be possible to stay SITTING DOWN for a NICK CAVE AND TBS concert?? The band were going to be up super close. How were we going to stay seated and civilized?
The band arrived on stage (to polite applause ??) and it became apparent that I wasn’t the only one concerned with the situation. Nick took the mike, buzzed and swaggered across the stage as TBS took to their instruments.
“Everyone is sitting down,” he said. “That’s really odd.”
No kidding…weird for us, must’ve looked super weird to the guys on stage. Nevertheless, they launched into the set, with #WeNoWhoUR. The crowd was calm. Nick worked the stage like a rangy beast, full of pent up energy, suddenly released upon the hordes. But the hordes weren’t responding in the same. It was a good opening but the scene was surreal. Too calm. Too seated. The song finished and there was more quiet applause (not counting our corner of the auditorium), but a nervous energy was building. Again I asked myself how could this be a sit down concert?
The band broke straight into Jubilee Street and a lone diehard fan, from way way back by the looks of him, rushed down the aisle to the front of the stage and sang with Nick word for word. Nick saw him. Came over to him. Together they sang. The song built. The guy put his hand out to Nick and Nick clasped it. He’s going to pull him up on stage! I thought. But no! Oh no no! Nick used him to launch himself into the audience and as one we rose! As one we cheered! As one we jumped and screamed and shouted as an audience should at a damn concert! Nick, he threw himself towards the crowd that burst from everywhere down the aisles towards him.
They lifted him, embraced him, raped him with their hands as he sang and exalted to the crowd. They boosted him up as he staggered from chair to chair, mike always in hand, never missing a beat. And just like that, the concert was on.
From there Nick and TBS lurched from the new to the old of Tupelo and back again via Red Right Hand, from the calm and beauty of Into My Arms, to The Weeping Song, to Stagger Lee and Papa Won’t Leave you Henry. All of it, one great gasp of multi-musical genius from a band of musos forever at the top of their game. From the moment that Nick awoke the beast within us, the seats served as nothing more than a barrier from a complete mosh and push pit. We were on our feet. We were jumping. We were shouting and singing and screaming. I loved it all. But that moment when Nick brought the crowd to their feet for the concert he was expecting to have, right in front of us, that, was a moment I’ll never forget.
Speaking of those types of moments: part of the organizing that had us third row from the stage also landed us with backstage passes. After the concert myself and my bella donna were led down a long corridor to a section of the behind-the-scenes workings of the Auditorium to join a select few others to see the band. We hit a point where a security guard held sway over a crack in the vinyl floor which served as the line between ‘backstagers’ and the band. There we waited as crew members and George Vjestica floated past, spoke to those they knew. No one could tell us if or when the other band members would make an appearance.
“Smoko,” exclaimed my bella donna in a way an Italian bella might say “Scusi“. I followed her out sideways to the dark of a long balcony. A couple of young ladies were soaking in the fresh cool air of the after-concert, filtered through tobacco. I turned and said hello and turned back but then did a quick double-take. Someone else was sitting in the dark. A long brooding presence, a slight, but imposing type. A lounged-longways effervescence of a man, feet pointing out the bottom of some bella donna’s coat keeping him warm. A glint of fire a-tip a rolled ‘tobacco’ joint glowed momentarily stronger as its holder took a well-deserved puff. Dark scowling eyebrows hung low between dark waxing hair and a couple more glints in the form of the eyes of Mr. Nick Cave.
I finished my double take and turned to him. “G’day Nick! I’m Nathan,” I said like greeting an old acquaintance, and approached him and offered my hand.
He clasped it with his left, non-smoking hand and returned the greeting, which he followed with a “We’re doing quiet time here Nathan.”
I took the cue. The man had given his all on stage, they all had, and I respected his wish. “That’s OK,” I said and instead of talking I went into my bag. “Don’t worry,” I reassured him, “I’m not going for a camera.” No. Not a camera. A book. I rummaged till I grasped hold and pulled out a copy of a book, my book, The Freeing of Jonathon Mark. I handed it to Nick Cave. “I read your book,” I said, The Death of Bunny Munro, and I figure it’s only fair you have the opportunity to read mine.”
Nick took The Freeing of Jonathon Mark and opened it. He flicked through to a page near the start, and started reading. I quietly explained who I was and how I’d come to be backstage but from within the pages of the book I was reminded of the need for quiet.
“Quiet time, Nathan.”
Perhaps I was on the cusp of disturbing his quiet time. Then, perhaps I was just disturbing him from reading…my book! In any case, we thanked each other and I left this great writer in peace. With my book. For a second moment of the night that I’ll never forget.
A great night. A great little trip to Rome. As I write this, I’m thinking, Damn I could go a decent cappuccino. I’m thinking, Rome me up anytime, that place is great! And I’m thinking, Nick Cave has my book! Maybe he’s reading it. Maybe he already has. Either way, Nick Cave has The Freeing of Jonathon Mark.
To find out more about The Freeing of Jonathon Mark visit: www.thefreeingofjonathonmark.com.