As the stage lights shone throughout the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, and the robust atmospherics radiated the space, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis were welcomed with joyful howls and claps. Fans came out donning their best muted tones, it was a rainbow of black, grey and more black as the crowd piled into the historic downtown LA theatre. Warren Ellis came out badass as ever with his signature beard and his fine shoes, followed by a dapper Nick Cave, always suited up to the nines. The two icons were joined by an illustrious gospel trio — shimmering in gold, silver and black robes.
Bringing their latest offering, Carnage to beautiful life for all fans to enjoy, Cave and Ellis took us through a turbulent roller coaster of joy and sadness; darkness and light; and heaven and hell. Opening up with “Spinning Song” off Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ GHOSTEEN, the tone was set for the evening. We were in for a dramatic, cinematic, unforgettable performance — and we would’t expect anything less from a Nick Cave and Warren Ellis showcase.
Taking us through the soaring angelics of “Bright Horses” — the song opened with Ellis’ soft “ahhhhhs” and poignant keys adding suspense to Cave’s beguiling words and somber croons. From there, the crowd was lead on spiritual journey. From the brooding church bells of “Night Raid” to the electrifying “White Elephant,” which had us all in awe of Cave’s signature moves — Nick Cave and Warren Ellis delivered what seemed like an endless set of existential euphoria.
“Hand of God” was one of the most impressionable sets from Carnage. With its turbulent tones and manic chants from the gospel trio, it was as though we were witnessing a cinematic exorcism unfold right before our eyes.
Throwing in a beautiful cover of T Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer” — Cave paid tribute to the late and great Marc Bolan, doting on the iconic artist’s words: “He was the one [of his time] … his words were fucking amazing.” With Ellis on the violin, and Cave serenading us with his baritone vocals, I’m sure Bolan was smiling from the stars above.
The concert continued paying tribute to those no longer physically on earth — Cave dedicated “Girl In Amber” to original Bad Seeds member Anita Lane, who passed on to the other side in 2021.
Closing with a healthy encore of songs including “Jubilee Street” and “Love Letter” — Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, along with their fabulous backup singers and multi-instrumentalist Luis Ramos (dude had a busy night and killed it playing so many intstruments) — brought so many of us back to life.
For many of us, the past year has felt as though we were being pushed and pulled in every direction. Mask on, mask off; shot here, shot there; test, test, more tests — quarantine. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis gave fans at the LA Orpheum serenity and a much needed cathartic release.
Words: Sandra Burciaga Olinger
Photography: Bryan Olinger