“My response to a crisis has always been to create,” Nick Cave wrote in the March 2020 edition of his Red Hand Files newsletter. “This impulse has saved me many times — when things got bad I’d plan a tour, or write a book, or make a record — I’d hide myself in work, and try to stay one step ahead of whatever it was that was pursuing me.”
Naturally, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the world into lockdown, Cave started brainstorming. Idiot Prayer: Alone at Alexandra Palace was inspired largely by Cave’s Conversations With… tour, which saw him perform stripped-back versions of his songs, interspersed with explanations and anecdotes.
With his subtle and stunning new concert film, Idiot Prayer: Alone at Alexandra Palace, Nick Cave continues in his quest for connection.
“I loved playing deconstructed versions of my songs at these shows, distilling them to their essential forms—with an emphasis on the delivery of the words,” he said. “I felt I was rediscovering the songs all over again, and started to think about going into a studio and recording these reimagined versions at some stage—whenever I could find the time.”
As with many other creatives, COVID-19 gifted him a fair bit of time. His plans for a global 2020 tour were put on ice, and “the world fell into an eerie, self-reflective silence”.
It was in this silence that Idiot Prayer was born.
This rare 90-minute performance sees Cave perform a collection of his songs in a never-before-seen setting. Of course, a large portion of the performance is made up of the obvious, piano-driven Boatman’s Call cuts (Into My Arms, Far From Me, (Are You) The One That I’ve Been Waiting For?, Black Hair, Brompton Oratory), but there are also a number of unexpected inclusions.
The Mercy Seat, which Cave has performed alone at a piano previously, still arrives with a shock, providing the film with some of its most dramatic moments.
Elsewhere, Cave’s selection of Grinderman tracks, Palaces Of Montezuma and Man In The Moon, are two standout moments. Particularly the former track, which sees Cave trade Grinderman’s swaggering rhythms for delicate piano melodies.
Visually, Idiot Prayer makes the most out of a simple arrangement. Limited to two cameras, cinematographer Robbie Ryan (The Favourite, Marriage Story, American Honey) has turned in something intimate and striking. Particularly in the film’s darker scenes, when Cave’s gaunt figure is ensconced in folding shadows, Alexandra Palace shifts into a mesmeric dreamscape.
COVID-19 has inspired many artists to find new ways of connecting with their fans. The results, unfortunately, have often felt forced and gimmicky.
Nick Cave, however, has been uncovering new avenues of connection with his fans for the past number of years. Following the launch of his revealing Red Hand Files newsletter, his Conversations With… tour, and the development of a generally more transparent public image, Idiot Prayer: Alone at Alexandra Palace feels like a natural next step. In fact, this is likely the best live-streamed performance to come out of the pandemic era.
Idiot Prayer will be screened globally on Thursday night (July 23rd). It will only be screened once and can not be fast-forwarded, rewound or paused.
Check out global streaming times below:
Australia, New Zealand & Asia: 8pm AEST / 10pm NZST
UK & Europe: 8pm BST / 9pm CEST
North & South America: 7pm PDT / 10pm EDT
For tickets and information on your local time visit DICE.