Sydney is shrouded in thick smoke from bushfires that are ravaging the state and indeed the whole of Australia as we make our way to the Sydney Opera House for the show. The Opera house forecourt, usually a vibrant, optimistic place with glittering views over Sydney’s harbour bridge and emerald waterfront resembles a scene from an apocalyptic movie tonight.
The usual throng of tourists is there, taking selfies on those famous steps, but the air is grey, and many people are wearing face masks to protect their lungs from the thick, putrid smoke that envelopes Sydney.
We take our seats and I am not sure what to expect. I am very familiar with Nick Cave’s music with his band, the Bad Seeds, but I can’t say that I recall any of the music from the films that he and his collaborator, Warren Ellis will play with the Sydney symphony orchestra and Sydney Philharmonia choirs tonight. A giant poster of the two musicians forms the backdrop to the event. In it, Ellis laughs as Cave looks on grinning. Two old friends enjoying a joke.
The orchestra takes up its position and then suddenly Cave and Ellis stride on stage. They embrace and the love that these two men feel for one another is immediately evident.
During the concert I catch them exchanging glances and the joy that they are getting from performing tonight is very apparent. It’s there in the acknowledgement of a nod of their heads or the pointing of an index finger.
Cave sits resplendent behind a grand piano. Ellis is mostly hunched over his violin but every now and then breaks loose with his characteristic twirling dervish lunge at the crowd.
Film clips from various movies such as the Proposition, West of Memphis, Hell or High water and others flicker behind Cave, Ellis and the orchestra as they take us on a musical journey through these movies. It is astonishing because just the briefest clips in combination with the incredibly powerful music are enough to evoke the entire movie.
When the music from The Road is played, I realise that the vision of the destruction of planet earth that is depicted in that film, is something that is currently being played out in rural Australia and has now even reached the Sydney Opera house. The realisation is startling and overpowering.
After watching Australian politicians dithering while people and animals are choking and dying, I find myself in tears because the scenes and music from The Road are so prescient. Who would have predicted that the apocalyptic vision depicted in that movie seems to be coming to life in Australia right now?
Cave brings soprano Julie Lea Goodwin on stage to join conductor, Nicholas Buc and the orchestra to perform songs from Wind River. The show culminates with a rousing version of Push the Sky Away. The audience is transfixed, I see tears in many eyes as the crowd sings with Cave.
After a few weeks of hell in Australia where we have seen rural communities and wild life decimated, somehow this concert gives hope.
Hope for a better future, hope that a country that has produced these two fine musicians will also produce leaders with the courage to help us to find a solution.
As we walk out of the theatre my companion says that the music has reminded her that we must not allow government inaction to impact us. “Fuck them” she says “they don’t own us or the planet. We are in charge, we are the change. We are HOPE.”
And that is the power of music, the power to transcend, the power to inspire, the power to change.
Thank you, Nick and Warren.