Cave rules

No more phone calls, please, we have a winner in the musical category of our competition to name The Most Pretentious Statement Of All Time.

A thunderous round of one-handed applause, if you will, for Mr Roger Waters and his fulminations on the occasion of Nick Cave’s two performances this past week in Israel:

We, hundreds of thousands of us, supporters of BDS and human rights throughout history all over the world join together in memory of Sharpeville and Wounded Knee and Lidice and Budapest and Ferguson and Standing Rock and Gaza and raise our fists in protest. We hurl our glasses into the fire of your arrogant unconcern, and smash our bracelets on the rock of your implacable indifference.

Oh my.

The idiocy of the statement, issued in the name of something called Artists For Palestine, is not merely superficial. It is compounded by several other elements that are unusual even in the self-referential realm of major-league rock grandiosity. It melds a cack-handed grasp of history with pretentiously insecure diction and a truly bizarre elevation of the role that might be played in the affairs of men by aging musicians with computer keyboards and too much time at their disposal.

In the first, of course, Waters rolls together a helter-skelter of events and locales that bear no conceivable relation to one another. There’s no innate reason why the massacre that took place in 1890 near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation can or should be considered alongside the siege of Budapest during World War II or recent race riots in America.

Still less does any of the aforementioned gather relevance against the unfortunate modern history of Gaza. Or the decision of a particularly talented Australian artist to perform a couple of shows in Tel Aviv.

There is, as well, the matter of the “hundreds of thousands” who have supposedly joined together in supporting the familiar name-and-shaming game that Roger Waters has been playing now for many years against fellow artists who do not share his pit-low estimation of the Jewish state.

In anybody’s books, hundreds of thousands means … well, hundreds of thousands. A cursory glance at the communiqués of the UK-based Artists For Palestine, however, only ever seems to throw up just two major names — the other being Brian Eno, the ambient artist and former Roxy Music player who boned up on Middle Eastern history during cigarette breaks while producing overlong albums for the likes of the emotionally loquacious Jane Siberry and the undeniably talented Laurie Anderson.

Siberry, a minor talent, has long since floated off into the ether. Anderson remains on something of an extended sabbatical since her musical heyday in the 1980s.

In the meantime, Nick Cave has gone from musical strength to strength, morphing from the angry young poet of The Birthday Party to a kind of late-night crooner for squatters whose electricity supply had just been terminated and nowadays a smoldering live artist exorcising the ghosts of his own and his family’s past, with suitably menacing accompaniment from longstanding backing band The Bad Seeds.

Cave’s recent recordings could comfortably go toe-to-toe with those of the late-period Leonard Cohen. And the 60-year-old’s recent performances, starting with the one I caught earlier this year in New Zealand, have been mesmeric — pushing the sky away from both his own troubled past and the dull fog that has settled on so much of the music business in 2017.

Today it’s Nick Cave who is hurling glasses into the fire of arrogant unconcern. It’s Cave smashing bracelets on the rock of implacable indifference. And the hundreds of thousands of like-minded are those who have been fortunate enough to witness this Good Son doing it, including those Jews and Arabs fortunate enough to make it to the Menora Mivtachim arena.

About the Author
David Cohen is a Wellington-based author and journalist whose work appears frequently in publications around the world.