Graffitied walls and storefronts more empty than the open fields either side of a long streak of road, as piano and violin intersect like rock being washed over by a strong stream.
Far from distracting, or cheapening the impact of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ compositions for the screen as proper music for an orchestra and choir concert, the use of footage from those films (The Proposition, The Road and Hell Or High Water, in these cases; also Wind River and West Memphis) solidified an experience of heightened physicality and contained but not wholly controlled emotion.
If Cave and Ellis have a “style” it would be the evocation of landscapes remade, combined with the yawning chasms of men (and in these films it is principally men) emptied out by absence – of hope or love or reason. And indeed language.
Tellingly, the contributions of additional voices – soprano Julie Lea Goodwin, briefly, and Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, in the second half of the concert – were wordless, even as Cave sang to or against them.
The one section not accompanied by film, selections from The Assassination Of Jesses James By The Coward Robert Ford, reached across several tender divides and emphasised not just the fluidity of the SSO under conductor and arranger Nicholas Buc, but also the gracefulness of the writing.
That Cave and Ellis were grooving on this experience was never in doubt. Their frequent exchange of smiles and gestures of encouragement, like a pair of boys still disbelieving they had been afforded this; their moments of closed-eyes absorption of, or long-limbed visceral response to, the controlled force of the orchestra and choir; Ellis’ exuberant swinging punch to the sky as simultaneous self-celebration and acknowledgement of the audience’s role in this – all spoke of the pleasures of this 100 minutes for them. And the hundreds of hours of collaboration before it.
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis perform Monday, December 9 at 6.15 and 9.30pm. Limited tickets are available for the 9.30pm performance.