“I think those films were about connecting Nick with an audience and about finding a way to enable Nick to express himself as an artist that went beyond music,” Hitchman says. “It went to a different place – him as a poet, a writer, as an icon. It gave Nick the ability to express himself beyond just the format of a three-minute song.”
Skeleton Tree charted even higher than Push the Sky Away, hitting No. 27 on the Billboard 200, No. 2 in the UK, and No. 1 in eight territories, en route to landing a spot on nearly every publication’s best albums list of 2016. He returned to America to bigger venues with more dates attached, including four New York shows (two at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn and two at the Beacon Theatre) and dates at the Greek Theatres in Los Angeles (5870 capacity) and Berkeley, CA (8500). He also performed at arenas across Europe this time around.
But those rooms in North America were quite a lot smaller than Barclays, The Forum, or Scotiabank. How has he managed to book venues and sell tickets much bigger just a year removed from those shows -- at age 61, no less?
“I’ll tell you exactly what it is,” Hitchman bluntly responds. “Most artists -- even, frankly, David Bowie -- they hit a peak, and they’re increasingly living off nostalgia, and it’s difficult to argue anything other than that. For Nick, creatively, he’s just gone from strength to strength. If you look at Push the Sky Away and Skeleton Tree as two records that kind of go together, they’re works of art. I think Nick’s fans have gone on that journey with him, and they’ve told everyone else about it.”
Hitchman and Lefko, around this time, began presenting Nick Cave in a different way – as one of the few remaining legendary artists of his time. “If you talk about our real objective, it’s establishing Nick in his rightful place as the world’s premier alternative icon,” Hitchman adds. “With Lou Reed no longer with us, David Bowie no longer with us, Leonard Cohen no longer with us -- who is the world’s premier alternative icon? If you ask me, it’s Nick Cave. And everything we’ve been doing over the last six years -- it’s all been driving toward Nick attaining that position, which is due to him, on merit, as the world’s most important alternative icon.”
Accompanied by dates at slightly smaller venues in Washington, DC and Dallas, these October 2018 arena shows should go a long way towards cementing that status, ushering in a new era where Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are a bona fide arena act. When they inevitably return on the next album cycle – whenever that may be – it will likely be to similar sized rooms in more cities across North America. And that sentiment is echoed by Manning, who mentions, “If I were still [at MSG Entertainment], I would have been begging, pleading, for Nick to play Madison Square Garden.”
Though Cave is relatively inexperienced at playing these massive arenas, he comes with about 40 years of being one of the premier live acts around, dating back to his early days with The Bad Seeds and before as a member of The Birthday Party. With one of the most storied and consistently critically acclaimed back catalogs in modern music history, he’s accumulated a massive, multi-generational fanbase ready to see Cave, at age 61, embark on this next phase of his illustrious career, begging more people than ever to simply look at him fly on the biggest stages in America.