‘Straight To You’ –The Nick Cave Tribute took place on Friday as part of Triple J’s annual ‘Aus Music Month.’ The evening saw a diverse collection of Australian artists worship at the altar of St. Nick in front of an audience closer in age to the prince of darkness himself than your average Triple J listener.
Spanning a lengthy body of work, it was no surprise the artists chosen to perform on the evening would equally enthrall and confuse fans. Backed by a tight house band, Spiderbait stalwart Kram kicked off the proceedings with ‘Red Right Hand’ putting the anxious crowd at ease with a close-to-original rendition of the gothic classic. The sound was impeccable from the get go, as to be expected from one of Melbourne’s finest music venues. Perfect song choice for opener, and nobody could have done it better than Kram.
Other highlights from Act One included Abbey May and Bertie Blackman’s sultry version of ‘Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl)’, Bluejuices’ Jake Stone’s crowd pleasing reggae take on ‘The Weeping Song’ and Sparkadia’s Alex Burnett with a brave reading of the late Rowland S. Howard’s ‘Shivers’.
After barely enough time to grab a beer, Act Two was well under way. The slightly overwhelmed Lisa Mitchell, paired with the ever-vivacious Lanie Lane on guitar performed the ballad ‘Into My Arms’ with the crowd hanging on every word. Jake Stone joined Mitchell on stage for the song’s climax, which ended with a moving embrace.
If any Nick Cave song were to be ‘rapped’, it would have to be the filthy ‘Stagger Lee’ it was more than adequate but unfortunately UrthBoy failed to match the intensity of the original.
Kram once again flawlessly sang vocals, this time on ‘Henry Lee’, stepping out from his usual post behind the kit and playing with guitar in hand. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for our very own Adalita to partake in the duet (usually performed by Cave and PJ Harvey) but unfortunately this connection was not made by organisers.
If there’s one thing you can put a safe bet on, it’s that Dan Sultan’s exuberant charisma and confidence will always charm the pants off any cynical crowd (at least one with females in it). His take on ‘Get Ready For Love’ was energetic, leading the all-star sing along.
Adalita wrapped it up with ‘Papa Won’t Leave You Henry.’ The queen of indie rock’s vocal performance was impressive but the fact that she appeared to be reading the lyrics detracted from the powerful finale. Without a doubt the true stars of the evening were the backing band consistently holding it together.
Considering that Triple J no longer support artists as ‘out of left field’ as Cave once was, the night felt like an attempt to unite an older Triple J audience with the current one. It was disappointing to discover that Paul Kelly and Tim Rogers appeared on the bill for the second night. Muscles seemed a bizarre inclusion to me.
With Cave’s songs in my head all evening I couldn’t help coming back to the same conclusion: it must be difficult for anyone to reinterpret the work of such an accomplished and much loved performer, particularly if that artist is still alive and still operating at what many of his fans believe to be his creative peak. Nick Cave is the best at doing Nick Cave songs, and perhaps only when we can no longer enjoy Nick Cave himself will I ever be able to appreciate anyone else’s efforts to assimilate his greatness.
– Jade Odgen