Lauded for his unique brand of ghostly balladry, painfully poignant lyricism, and often macabre storytelling, Nick Cave returned to festival summits this summer with the Bad Seeds in tow.
In recent years Cave has transformed into some kind of deity when taking to the stage. Delivering stories - either unflinchingly personal or extraordinarily poetic - to the masses that come to watch him, crowds scramble towards the front to clasp his hands and hang on his every word.
His songs are often mirrors to our own anguish and anxieties, which recount experiences and emotions in ways that are equally affecting and engrossing. It's as though he's a forlorn preacher dishing out wisdom, but also warnings.
Away from his time with the Bad Seeds, Cave has dabbled in sumptuous duets with fellow Aussie icon Kylie Minogue and former love PJ Harvey. Even though these rank highly in his oeuvre, it's extremely unlikely they'll get any airtime so on this occasion they've missed inclusion.
That said, here's ten of the best Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds tracks you need to see live:
'Red Right Hand'
Where else could we start? A staple of Nick Cave's sets since its release on his 1994 album Let Love In, 'Red Right Hand' got a second wind after it became the soundtrack to crime drama Peaky Blinders, and has since inspired numerous covers from the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Iggy Pop.
Cave's delivery is up there with his most menacing, detailing the journey of a prowling gun-slinger that leaves the saloon-doors swinging and you looking over your shoulder long after the chorus comes to a close.
'The Ship Song'
One of the most glorious vocal melodies he's ever mustered, 'The Ship Song' from 1990's The Good Son is Nick Cave at his most triumphant. Verses crash into an epic chorus, swaying to and fro, but never steering too far from your heartstrings.
'We No Who U R'
The intro to the Australian icon's opus Push The Sky Away begins peacefully with softly echoing keys and angelic backing vocals, but soon becomes an ominous journey deep into the bosom of a forest, as the violin creeps eerily. And the rest of the album's stark imagery begins to unfold from then onwards...
Another visceral slice of vicious Bad Seeds from Let Love In, 'Loverman' sees Nick Cave embody the snarling sex-pest that drives the song's narrative, spitting his intentions at anyone listening as the instrumentation swells around him. It's up there as one of the most disturbing songs he's ever written, but all the more reason to see it performed in the flesh.
'Into My Arms'
Cave confessed that 'Into My Arms' was the song he was most proud of, and it signalled the beginning of ballads becoming as much a part of the Bad Seeds' lexicon as bastardised blues tracks.
Often attributed to his break up with PJ Harvey, this song is heralded as one of his best but also one of his most accessible, regularly played throughout despairing times due to his outpouring of emotion and achingly intense delivery.
A cover (albeit a loose cover) of the American folk song about the murder of Billy Lyons by "Stag" Lee Shelton, if there was one Non-American artist that could adequately borrow from an American blues standard it'd be Nick Cave. Using the basis of the original song to form something altogether more violent, it's since taken on a new life unto itself.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are anything but a traditional rock band. But 'Deanna' from their 1988 album Tender Prey proved the band were a dab hand at writing a song that was a bit more straight-and-narrow, with a vampiric Cave weaving his harsh lyricism around the chanting chorus of "Oh Deanna".
'Push The Sky Away'
Push The Sky Away's eponymous title track is as goosebump-inducing as it is a hopeful mantra, so you'd understand why the band regularly end their epic sets with it. "And some people say it’s just rock and roll, oh but it gets you right down to your soul". It certainly does Nick, it certainly does.
Debuted during his haunting solo performance, Idiot Prayer, filmed in an isolating Alexandra Palace throughout the pandemic, 'Euthanasia' sees Cave grappling and confronting the loss of his son Arthur in a tender, touching glimpse into his personal grief.
The closing lyrics "I passed through a doorway, and found you sitting at the kitchen table, and smiled. That smile that smiles, that smiles… smiles just in time", painful as they must be to deliver, will sear your heart indefinitely.
Supposedly inspired by the debauched underbelly of Cave's former home of Brighton on the UK's south coast, 'Jubilee Street' is where he and each of the Bad Seeds display their mastery, in particular his right-hand-man and confidant Warren Ellis.
A tale of prostitution, persecution, and purging of multiple sins, the song swells and swells until it bursts into a divine crescendo of strings, chants, and riffs, in what is arguably the band's most spine-tingling anthem.
Click here to see all of the festivals Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds are playing this summer.