Scheduled to play in select cinemas across the country for one night only, Distant Sky is essential viewing for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds fans.
The last film about the acclaimed Australian musician, One More Time With Feeling(2016), movingly chronicled Cave's behind-the-scenes struggle to put together his most recent album, Skeleton Tree, in the aftermath of the death of one of his twin sons, Arthur, who fell from a cliff in Brighton while on LSD. Capturing Cave at his most vulnerable, the documentary – made in lieu of press interviews – was raw, brave, and heartbreaking.
Distant Sky now shows Cave in his pomp, as a performer, during a sold-out concert at Copenhagen's Royal Arena in October 2017. The set list is an aficionado's wet dream, combining songs from Skeleton Tree with career-spanning highlights that stretch back as far as the sonically-aggressive eponymous track from the Bad Seeds' 1984 debut album, From Her To Eternity.
Filmed with multiple cameras that capture both the scale of the venue and the feeling of intimacy that Cave creates as his connection with the audience grows stronger, the film is an exhausting roller coaster of emotions.
There are moments, in what often feels as much like an exorcism as a gig, when the singer seems on the verge of tears. Sometimes he is the Cave of old, strutting confidently across the stage like a man risen from the ashes of his despair. At other times, he looks like someone who has been to hell, and is only part way back. And while songs from Skeleton Tree are naturally coloured by his family's tragedy (Girl in Amber is especially achingly naked and shattering), even older standards, such as the gorgeous Into My Arms and apocalyptic Tupelo, now seem touched by the grief and, possibly, feelings of guilt that come with losing a child.
The thoughtfully curated song choices take the audience on a turbulent and cathartic journey of love, loss, and longing; violence, beauty, and hope. At the end, the physical distance between Cave and the audience breaks down completely as he comes down from the stage and beckons people to clamber over the security barrier to join him and the band. Cave may be a rock icon, but he is ultimately one of them. That is, one of us. And as he emotionally clings to a young male fan in an impromptu embrace, he looks drained and genuinely grateful for having been able to share his pain.
Such moments, coupled with Cave's atmospheric and exhilarating music, mean thatDistant Sky isn't just another concert movie, but a portrait of a heart laid bare.
Distant Sky – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Live in Copenhagen plays at select cinemas on April 12