Author: Karsten Hein
Category: Audiophile Music
The occurrence of Covid-19 and government measures against the spread of this particular strand of the flu lead to the cancellation of concert events worldwide throughout 2020. As artists were looking for alternative ways of staying in touch with their fans, their focus shifted from huge events at crowded public venues to more private chambers, often in the shape of the artists’ own and therefore intimate spaces.
‘Idiot Prayer: Nick Cave Alone at Alexandra Palace’ was shaped by the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions in that it places the Australian artist and his piano at the centre of the Great Hall of London’s Alexandra Palace, an ample space of 6,426 square meters and a ceiling height of 26m. While under non-Covid-19 circumstances the Palace is the host of awards ceremonies, public concerts, gala dinners, and exhibitions, Cave’s lonesome presence there serves well to reveal and underscore the full depth and force of his presence as an artist.
There is more to Nick Cave than meets the eye. If are not convinced yet, ‘Idiot Prayer’ might be just what you have been missing. Intended as the culmination of a concert film trilogy that began with ’22,000 Days on Earth’ in 2014 and continued with ‘One More Time with Feeling’ in 2016, ‘Idiot Prayer’ was streamed live to ticket-holders around the globe on 23 July 2020 and then released as live-album on 20 November 2020.
We were not in possession of tickets and had not followed the artist in some time, but seeing the album advertised on local billboards, my wife decided to candidly place it under our tree for Christmas. And I really must say that I am very grateful that she did so. The recording and mastering are of great quality. It seems the location itself may have added to the superb acoustics, in that it provided a natural balance of space and insulation that is so difficult to achieve. Nick Cave’s voice is well-captured with sufficient focus and dimension, and the piano is arranged around it to provide a musical frame. There is great timbre to the piano and voice that allows for long and effortless listening sessions.
While many of the songs are familiar to me from previous Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds albums, hearing them played in this setting brings a new sense of sobriety and wisdom to them. Right from the very first words that are spoken, it became clear to me that I am listening to a fully accomplished poet and musician, an artist at the prime of his expression, a sober man with a story to tell. It is easy to be drawn into the recording and to lose oneself in the allusions and images that appear and fade before the mind’s eye. Nick Cave, the story-teller, in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, in full control of his voice, his piano and his craft. A remarkable album.