Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds concluded last night’s stunning headline set at INmusic Festival in Zagreb, Croatia, with over a dozen fans onstage. At various points in the show, Cave waded out to the audience across a specially designed podium, hands from the crowd climbing his legs like tendrils, before he would retreat to the stage, draping himself across the piano. The band’s most recent album, 2016’s ‘Skeleton Tree’, is a hushed, minimalist affair largely written in the wake of personal loss, but this was a cacophonous, sometimes abrasive show that owed much to the dissonant musical styling of multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis.
Cave moved with quick, vampiric grace, hopping up onto separately levels of the Main Stage as though momentarily levitating. Meanwhile, Ellis played his violin over his knees with such velocity you’d think he were attempting to saw it in half. Cave skittered and jived like a sprite through the atonal squall that unravelled from the stage during 1984’s experimental punk classic ‘From Her To Eternity’, exhaling dramatically into the air as though expelling a demon, and stalked the podium with tightly coiled menace as he purred through the iconic ‘Red Right Hand’.
Earlier in the evening, Oklahoman art-pop extraordinaire St. Vincent – aka Annie Clark – brought a brilliantly bizarre show to the same stage. Her backing band wore creepily anonymising felt masks that looked like something from Jim Henson’s nightmares, while Clark was fierce as fuck, using a variety of different coloured guitars to slam through a set front-loaded with material from last year’s acclaimed ‘MASSEDUCATION’. Not unlike Ellis, she battered the instrument as though attempting to bludgeon it to death. There were moments of tenderness, though, as when she altered the lyrics to ‘New York’ to reflect her surroundings: “’Zagreb isn’t Zagreb without you, love.” She even managed to work in a reference to the city’s most curious tourist attraction, the Museum of Broken Relationships, which is fitting for a musician who navigates the knotty mess of human emotion and turns it into pure, cathartic joy.
Cult Croatian pop group Jinx, a fixture in the country since the mid-‘90s, drew an enormous crowd to the Other World Stage, despite going up against a big screen TV showing the Croatia V. Iceland World Cup match elsewhere on the festival site. The feel-good show shimmered with cheerful brass arrangements that dipped and dived behind vocalist Jadranka Ivaniš Yaya. It was a right old hootenanny, and no mistaking. Representing Iceland were Daughters of Reykjavík, a nine-strong feminist power-pop collective that come off like The Spice Girls covering late ’80s house legend Inner city after hanging out with new-gen punk heroes Dream Wife (whom they supported in London a couple of years ago). Their post-midnight Hidden Stage set was a bouncy, ridiculously fun affair that saw the group display thrilling, infectious confidence, returning for a victory lap encore with the anthemic ‘Slut’, written for Reykjavik’s Slut Walk’ in 2015. One member described the song as being about “how it doesn’t matter what you wear, or how drunk you are – you are never asking to be raped.”
Much later, the Yem Kollective DJs spun futuristic beats in a dense canopy of woodland nicknamed Suma Stribovora, while the Karaoke Tent was host to a series of bizarrely talented vocalists that belted out the likes of Etta James’ ‘At Last’ and Nina Simone’s ‘Ain’t Got No (I Got Life)’, as though the evening were an audition for ‘Croatia’s Got Talent’.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, though, forged the real lasting impression here. Marooned in a mass of bodies at the cusp of the podium, Cave implored the audience to clap in unison, then cut them off abruptly with one wave of his hand. “That’s fucking awesome,” he said, before referencing the country’s earlier 2-1 win over Iceland: “That’s why you won the fucking football.” He created a palpable sense of community, the point of which was summed up by the lyrics to ‘Push the Sky Away’: “Some people say it’s just rock’n’’roll / Oh, but it gets you down into your soul.”