Nick Cave astounds with new solo live album ‘Idiot Prayer’

Nick Cave’s album Idiot Prayer is the haunting memorial for a life once lived with laughter, connection, and community. Cave sits completely alone in Alexandra Palace, his songs stripped down bare, and moves us with the mere intonation of his vocals; a single piano, a single voice, and the vastness of the empty venue — these collectively elicit the ”duende” which Cave so fondly speaks of. Through this heightened surge of emotion, this album allows us to venture through the piques and troughs of life and human consciousness, and lets us explore what it really means to be alive in our modern day.

‘Spinning Song’ is the inaugural track of the album, bringing us into a realm of comfort as Cave’s assurances of peace echo down the halls: “upward and upward,” he repeats of a floating feather, reminding us of the forces that exist beyond our control. It is with this track that we are initiated into Cave’s reflection on life, death, and loneliness. ‘Idiot Prayer’ is stripped back from its deeply rhythmic bass, with the piano solely carrying the cry of regret felt when faced with the fact of our ends. Yet, the eerily empty venue allows for our most intimate connection with an artist so far; devoid of the typical buzz of a thousand bodies, we are left with only one focal point — his voice. Cave’s vocals are so clear and raw, he’s practically in isolation with us, holding out his hand of support as an answer to our prayers, singing us into a state of security. A mirror to the fan favourite, ‘The Mercy Seat’, the title track similarly drops its spiteful, bitter tone and takes on a new emotional weight, transforming the album into an elegy for a world that once was.

Image: Joel Ryan

Cave’s newly released gut-wrenching ballad ‘Euthanasia’ continues to focus on the idea of hopelessly searching for a sense of peace that will never truly arrive and, in turn, losing yourself within our grief-stricken world. A brave face of solitude breaks beneath the beautifully staggering piano and, thus, the question of the pandemic arises: are we desperately relying on an “idiot prayer of empty words”, wasting our time waiting for a miracle that’s never to come?

Cave’s setlist takes an existential nosedive into the depths of uncertainty and comes out ringing with the general nervousness of the past decade. We know too well of the anxiety which has accompanied our recent technological advances, and have even partaken in the paranoia which has, in turn, plagued our collective consciousness. But, all in all, Cave manages to provide solace through his repetitive lines as he casts a light on the sweet, familiar “smile” that will arrive for us in good time.

Like all isolation art, Idiot Prayer relentlessly tries to instil a sense of meaning in a newly senseless world. The outreach of his singular voice — with all its faltering breaths — attempts to mend this intervention of collective life, restore the social contract, and draw out a feeling of community which seems to be collapsing beneath the weight of the pandemic.

Header image: Joel Ryan