Nick Cave: the transcendent power of music

bad seeds

The most memorable and moving cultural event I experienced this year was seeing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds perform at the London Arena in September. In fact, I could say that in any year I see the band in concert. But this year was especially poignant.

Rock music has acquired roughly the position in our culture that jazz had when I was growing up: the breakthrough art form of an earlier generation, kept on life support by an ageing cohort of afficionados. Nick Cave has been in the business a long time and manages to observe the boundaries of the form while keeping it fresh and innovative. He surrounds himself with musicians of the highest calibre and inventiveness and produces music that spans the spectrum from hard-edged, dark, aggression to the most heart-wrenching and romantic ballads. Nick Cave himself is a consumate performer: he strides the stage with visceral energy and has an electric relationship with his audience.

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Life affirmation courtesy of Camden Council

My son is in there somewhere.

I’ve experienced quite a number of concerts over the years at the Royal Albert Hall. But the one I had the privilege to attend on Monday night ranks possibly as the best. Let me declare an interest, I was the parent of one of the performers. But the same goes for nearly all the 3,500 other members of the audience.

For this was the Camden Music Festival, a bi-annual event which brings together schoolchildren aged between six and eighteen from across the London Borough of Camden in an extraordinary spectacle of collaborative music-making. It wasn’t simply parental pride that made this a heart warming event. It was an ambitious, entertaining and impressive performance of undeniable quality. And it exemplifies important characteristics of the value a local authority can deliver to its community even in a time of austerity.

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The value of culture lies in its capacity to enrich lives

The National Gallery drew large crowds during the Second World War for recitals by Myra Hess
The National Gallery drew large crowds during the Second World War for recitals by Myra Hess

Organisations of all kinds face a new challenge: to demonstrate that they create value for society and not just for themselves.

A reckoning has been a long time coming after the financial collapse of 2008. But it’s arrival is unmistakable – not just in the mood music of the party leaders as they compete to compose the best tune on moral capitalism. It’s evident in the furore around the aborted bonus of the RBS chief executive, Stephen Hester, the broadly sympathetic hearing given to the Occupy protestors at St. Paul’s, and the public revulsion over the phone hacking scandal which brought about the Leveson Inquiry into the role of the press.

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