Live Report: All Points East 2022 – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

A wonderful climax to the London festival...

To say it’s been a difficult summer for British festivals is perhaps under-selling it. Our first true summer post lockdown restrictions, at times it’s felt as though the Great General Public would rather do anything than stand in a field watching music. Ticket sales have been sluggish, with live event organisations remaining under pressure, struggling to escape the shadow of COVID. Arriving at London’s All Points East, though, you’re given the impression of an event operating with confidence, a swagger in its step, even. The crowds are healthy, and the set up remains expertly pieced together – on the final day of its Victoria Park run, All Points East is a slick operation, the carefully tailored line up building towards that dramatic finale.

Live Report: All Points East 2022 – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

As Clash enters we catch the finale of Kae Tempest, a true polymath whose words and music speak so eloquently towards the dichotomous nature of London life in the 21st century. They also have fantastic stage presence, something honed at spoken word jams, with Kae’s raw presence have a punk-like appeal. ‘More Pressure’ and ‘Grace’ are delivered with emphatic intensity, before an unflinching ‘Ketamine For Breakfast’ blasts out in the East London skyline.

Live Report: All Points East 2022 – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Diminutive axe heroine Anna Calvi is next up, and her wonderful Main Stage set provides an early highlight. A magnificent artist, the Mercury nominated songwriter trawls her catalogue, allowing each song to evolve freely, teasing out fresh elements in the process. A magnificent instrumentalist, Anna’s freewheeling guitar skills are matched to a killer emotional streak, and a stadium-worthy ‘Desire’ rings far out over the assembled crowd.

Live Report: All Points East 2022 – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

By way of contrast, Aldous Harding is much more reserved and minimalist. The New Zealand songwriter’s four studio albums (to date) are laced with insight and grace, delivered with such empathetic idiosyncrasy that her work truly sits in its own sphere. Live, she’s a riveting persona, the undulating musicality propelled forwards by her peculiar but engaging sense of theatrics. With the last of the summer warmth lingering around us, ‘Fixture Picture’ helps to take the edge of the heat.

Live Report: All Points East 2022 – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

sleaford mods aren’t about to lay down any such concession. The duo’s barbed, rapturously received set brings a taste of rave energy to All Points East, while Jason Williamson’s grimy, outspoken lyricism has scarcely felt more needed. With the Tory party leadership campaign entering its 9357th week, and with the cost of living rising by the hour to ever-more excruciating levels, their music seems to soundtrack the wallpaper finally peeling off the country’s decrepit living room. There’s unity, too – notably when Billy Nomates takes to the stage for a fantastically wonky ‘Mork N Mindy’.

Clash then heads to the KOKO Backstage area to scout out the full extent of the site. Last night Disclosure played an incredible DJ set following their stint on the Main Stage set, but right now the exclusive area is forging a space away from the hustle and bustle, with down tempo tunes, cocktails, and food from Andreas Engberg. A cut above, it acts as a moment of respite before the main adventure continues.

Live Report: All Points East 2022 – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Smilin’ Thom Yorke might not be everyone’s first pick for a breezy afternoon festival set, but a truly enormous crowd greets Radiohead side hustle The Smile for their slot. The band – augmented by Sons Of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, and Radiohead comrade Jonny Greenwood – released their terrific debut album earlier this year, receiving rapturous reviews in the process. Intended as an evolutionary project, The Smile have been dipping brand new material into their live sets, too, further adding to the sense of occasion surrounding their arrival.

In truth, it’s a magnificent performance, without doubt one of the day’s true highlights. The material from The Smile’s album is impeccable, with the band allowing the songs to stretch out over the heads of the assembled throng. Thom Yorke is all smiles and easy-going charm, even when plumbing the emotional depths; Tom Skinner adds a groove, a subtle elasticity which flirts with the outer edges of jazz, while displaying an awareness of club culture. And Jonny Greenwood is simply remarkable, his use of the guitar as a vehicle for noise simply unparalleled.

Live Report: All Points East 2022 – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

New material does, indeed, get an air. One song opens slowly, with an ominous paranoia that flits around the edges of the consciousness; Jonny Greenwood then rips it asunder with a head-splitting guitar chord, drawn straight from the black metal songbook. In a telling moment afterwards, Thom Yorke simply grins at the crowd and says: “Well I bet you weren’t expecting that…” Quite.

A superb set strewn with surprises, The Smile accidentally run over their slot, but not before Jonny Greenwood somehow manages to play the piano and harp… at the same time. Truly, is there no end to this man’s talents?

Mercury winner Michael Kiwanuka is on the second stage, an artist we’re longing to hear more from. Amassing a superb catalogue, perhaps the most difficult aspect of piecing together a Kiwanuka set list is what not to include. ‘Cold Little Heart’ and ‘Hero’ stand out, with his empathetic vocal blending those vintage soul tropes with something urgent, modern, and distinctive. Opener ‘You Ain’t The Problem’ sets the tone: the band working expertly together, dipping and soaring while remaining beautifully in sync.

Live Report: All Points East 2022 – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

With an expert sense of theatre, All Points East then closes down, each stage allowing the shutters to fall as the crowd are shepherded towards the Main Stage. The sun is falling, the lights are dimming, and it’s fast approaching the witching hour: an apt setting, then, for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to conjure some of the heart’s darkest forces.

A set that staggers from grief to exultation via love, loss, and every inch inbetween, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds give their own in a terrific, cathartic headline performance. Opening with a savage ‘Get Ready For Love’ then segueing into a transformative ‘There She Goes, My Beautiful World’ Nick Cave prowls the stage, a hyper-stylish Mephistopheles channelling the black core of each song.

Live Report: All Points East 2022 – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

The highs are almost too numerous to mention. A lengthy, languid ‘Red Right Hand’ sees Nick retrieve an audience member from the crowd, singing each line to her startled face. An act of communion with the crowd, he then retires to the piano for a scorchingly intense ‘I Need You’, closing with its mantra-like line of survival: “Just breathe / Just breathe / Just breathe…”

A slowed down, murky rendition of ‘The Mercy Seat’ is followed by the simple, heart-on-sleeve message of ‘The Ship Song’. In anyone else’s hands this could be mawkish, but here it’s the demolition force of simple truths, delivered in an unvarnished fashion. It’s far from a one-man show, however; Jim Sclavunos adds his multi-instrumentalist flourishes, including those fated bells ‘Tupelo’, while the genial, ever-present figure of Warren Ellis adds further electrical charge to proceedings. The inimitable figure hacks away at his violin, the savagery of his approach adding a physicality to the stage, swooping from side to side, a grin plastered to his face. At the crowd’s behest he takes a bow, an act of easy-going union that momentarily breaks apart the emotional catharsis.

Live Report: All Points East 2022 – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

The encore opens with a grand, wide open ‘Into My Arms’ before surging into ‘Vortex’ and ‘Ghosteen Speaks’. Having headlined All Points East once previously – in 2018 – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds aren’t unfamiliar with the setting, but this lends the occasion an air of reunion. Post-lockdown, perhaps that’s only right – a crowd of people rediscovering themselves, and each other. Amid the multitude of difficulties facing it, All Points East 2022 is a triumph.

Live Report: All Points East 2022 – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Words: Robin Murray
Photography: Rachel Lipsitz

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