Tuesday, October 7, 2014

20,000 Days on Earth - Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market

By Kyle Schmitt

20,000 Days on Earth draws a hard target on what drives Nick Cave to write and perform. This task proves demanding with a subject whose first confession is that he ceased to be a human being at the end of the 20th century, and he doesn’t necessarily feel bad about it. His attempt to explain how songwriting is about developing a counterpoint starts with an analogy that compares letting a child into the same room “as a Mongolian psychopath” and ends with the phrase “shooting the clown.” Fortunately, directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard manage to extract some lucid explanations from Cave that illuminate exactly what he’s trying to do with his craft. His songwriting attempts to create a world of good guys and bad guys, a place “where God actually exists.” Cave even opens up about his muses: his wife (whose special moments with Cave are “cannibalized in song”) and the town of Brighton, which he claims has been “forcing its way violently” into his music. But he credits his bandmates’ collaboration for helping him transcend his limitations, and Forsyth and Pollard show how Cave’s fellow Bad Seeds bring life to new songs like “Higgs Boson Blues” and “Push the Sky Away” in rehearsals. His lieutenant Warren Ellis shines during these scenes, which feature Ellis comparing a nascent Cave creation to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night)”, presenting the singer with a well-meaning gift of firecrackers for his children, and recounting the time he made off with Nina Simone’s used chewing gum. Far milder off-stage than his live persona would suggest, Cave explains that a “psychodrama” between himself and the first few rows at his concerts supports the narrative of his songs. He says he strives to make his shows communal and transformative, claiming that, “If you can get to the center of the song, you can become God-like.” Cave comes close to divinity in a striking finale that intercuts an epic “Jubilee Street” performance with live footage of the Birthday Party and vintage Bad Seeds. A provocatively shot documentary of one of rock’s greatest creators, 20,000 Days on Earth plays at Angelika through Thursday, October 9.

Editor's note... And to celebrate the rerelease of the Pop Group's vast archives of material upcoming on Freaks R Us Records (through Kartel), beginning this October 21st, here's Nick Cave talking about this important band...

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