NICK CAVE: 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH, Barbican – Evening Standard, 18 Sept 2014

A starry crowd got to see a few new sides to Nick Cave at a gala preview of a new documentary about the charismatic musician. Appearing after the screening to be interviewed and perform, there was Cave the reluctant conversationalist and Cave the lovesick balladeer, melancholy at the piano instead of raging and howling with his fiery band The Bad Seeds. Also, in outtakes from Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s film 20,000 Days on Earth, there was Cave the comedian, arguing with Ray Winstone about fish and chips and reducing Kylie Minogue to hysterics with a story about a dead dog.

There was something disquieting about seeing this spindly vampire from the netherworld doing something so modern and trivial as answering viewer tweets. The film, however, both preserved and added to his myth with a dreamlike style and more focus on the creative process than the incendiary live sets.

“You don’t know what it’s about. It’s like doing a Ken Loach film,” said Winstone, who was in the audience along with Jack Davenport, Will Self and Benedict Cumberbatch. Cave didn’t seem to mind exposing personal things on screen, notably in an emotional discussion with a psychoanalyst, but looked more comfortable singing on stage. “Thank God for that,” he said when permitted to shift from the sofa to the piano and deliver The Ship Song and Into My Arms with subtle power.

Bad Seeds Warren Ellis and Barry Adamson offered minimal accompaniment, with Ellis, the film’s other real star, sneaking in a distorted electric guitar solo at the close of Mermaids. Cave took the spotlight, one of rock’s great enigmas exposed in more ways than ever before.