NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS Wed 6/21 Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS Wed 6/21 Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall Kerry Brown

Throughout his four-decade career as a songwriter, poet, and novelist, Nick Cave has conjured up a long litany of fictitious serial killers, thieves, madmen, demons, ghosts, and ghouls. But none of these make-believe horrors could rival the very real and unimaginable terror that visited him on July 14, 2015, when his 15-year-old son Arthur fell to his death from a cliff near Brighton, England, after experimenting with LSD.

Cave and his band had already begun recording a new album, so he was confronted with two options: abandon the record or continue working, using the exercise as an outlet for his grief. Skeleton Tree, the 16th studio album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, continues the bleak minimalism of 2013’s Push the Sky Away, with Cave not singing so much as intoning and lamenting over Warren Ellis & Co.’s ambient dirges. It’s as though the band stripped these songs down to the bone, and then poured bleach over the bones. The 2016 documentary One More Time with Feeling follows the album’s recording process, and shows Cave as vulnerable, doubtful, and self-conscious about everything from his hair to his motivation to continue as a performing artist.

After being worshiped for years as the Prince of Darkness, Cave reveals that he is but a mere mortal like the rest of us, susceptible to the same hurt and loss, but burdened perhaps with a greater responsibility to keep the show going, for us just as much as for himself. Because, as he says toward the end of the film, “Someone’s got to sing the stars, and someone’s got to sing the rain, and someone’s got to sing the blood, and someone’s got to sing the pain.”