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Nick Cave Plays the Shaman on 'Colbert' with "Rings of Saturn"

The 'Skeleton Tree' cut was translated into an eerie Lynchian ballad for the 'Late Show' performance.

by Alex Robert Ross
Jun 14 2017, 2:03pm

"To see Nick Cave live is to see a rock star fulfilling his essential shamanic function, transporting self and audience to the beyond," Rajeev Balasubramanyam wrote in an essay at Noisey this past weekend. Cave's live performances capture the purpose of the rock star, Balasubramanyam wrote: outside of this realm, somewhere between myth and reality.

That Cave can translate this shamanic sensibility to a performance on Late Night with Stephen Colbert is incredible in its own way. He performed Skeleton Tree cut "Rings of Saturn" as Colbert's musical guest last night and, even on a quarter of a computer screen, compressed onto YouTube, it was captivating. With the shimmering glitches of the studio version transposed into an uncanny, Lynchian ballad on screen, Cave's amelodic delivery is even more brutal and exhausting. His interaction with the microphone itself is a marvel—he approaches it first like he's battling a magnetic force, and then, in the second verse, as if it's a part of his right arm. It can be summed up by Cave's own line, delivered with his eyes down towards the Ed Sullivan floor: "And I'm there / And I'm not there."

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