The latest contender is a Ceilidh, held as part of the Jack In The Green festival, on Saturday 29th April 2006. Maybe somebody knows different? But one thing is in no doubt and that is the identity of the last major act to tread those famous, if slightly creaky, boards.
Wednesday, 3rd November 2004 saw Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds make the short journey along the coast from his hometown of Brighton. The gig was a one off warm up date for an upcoming tour to promote the new double album, ‘Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus’, which had been released around a month earlier.
The gig appears to have been almost secret, with tickets hard to come by. In fact local fan Tim Barton told me “I nearly didn’t get tickets, as I thought it might be a scam”.
Another, Phil John, rang the booking agents to buy tickets, only to be told that none were available for the Hastings gig. Apparently Nick Cave wanted a venue away from Brighton, “something almost secret”, and the Pier Ballroom obviously fitted the bill.
By all accounts the packed crowd were treated to a special evening, with the reviewer from The Observer saying, “The gig is billed as a warm up, but you wouldn’t know it from the force with which the band make their entrance”, “As a live performance it’s hard to fault”, and finally, “This was a great gig, a musical smack on the lips, with added headbutt. If it was a warm up, those seeing the tour are in for a treat”.
Praise echoed by fans among the crowd who remember it as being “An awesome gig, up there as one of his best” and “a great show”.
Complete with four gospel singers, bringing the total number of musicians to a dozen, the two hour show, which was split into two sets, consisted mainly of tracks from ‘Abattoir Blues / the Lyre of Orpheus’. In fact the double album was played almost in its entirety, a bold move, but one approved of by the crowd.
The Bad Seeds were all “suited and booted” to impress, but Nick Cave himself seems to have been the centre of attention. This was helped by some dramatic white lighting, which Phil John remembers as “casting a huge shadow behind him, that moved with him as he stalked the stage”. Phil describes Cave as “definitely having a touch of the Nosferatu about him”, something he still has to this day.
Another audience member mentions Nick Cave “stalking the stage like a horror circus ringmaster, transfixing us”, while The Observer said “Cave prowled the front of the stage, pointing a bony finger at the audience” and also him “wriggling like a lizard, in his fancy white shirt”. All images that conjour up the obvious power of the performance.
The band were not to be outdone though, as Phil John remembers “the violinist Warren Ellis virtually duelling with Nick Cave, using his violin as a kind of weapon”.
Tim Barton recalls “two, maybe three encores”, which brought out some crowd pleasing favourites such as, “Red Right Hand”, “The Weeping Song” and “Deanna”.
Tim even managed to get backstage, but had trouble attracting Nick Cave’s attention, as he “was busy being chatted up by a lovely girl”. The perils of the rock ‘n’ roll world I guess?
Another aspect of the event, mentioned by several people, were the ‘celebrities’ and non Hastonians in attendance. Tim Barton saw Mark Lamarr, and heard rumour of Terry Christian being there. While a fan, from Worthing, wrote online that “there are more familiar faces in the crowd than there are down my street”. Tim found out about the gig via a Brighton based online Bulletin Board, which may explain why?
Overall, it sounds like one hell of a gig and a fitting, if unforseen, climax to several decades of live performances by major artists on Hastings Pier. One online review describes, rather presciently, “Nick and his band’s demonic intensity shaking the old pier to its Victorian foundations”.
Phil John described the floor of the pier ballroom as “being springy” and “spotting some small holes in the floor, through which you could see the sea”.
Apparently at the end of the show a lone female voice shouted out, thanking Nick Cave for coming to Hastings. The crowd cheered and then Cave replied “It’s an absolute pleasure”.
Unfortunately, it was a pleasure destined not to be repeated.
Another Brighton based band, The Kooks, were due to play Hastings Pier on 18th August 2006. The sold out gig was suddenly cancelled though, when Hastings Borough Council closed the pier, for safety reasons, in June 2006.
One newspaper story mentions “Health and Safety bosses believing that, such was the poor condition of the struts and trusses supporting the pier, hundreds of music fans attending the gig could cause it to collapse”.
Many local gig goers, throughout the years, have mentioned the whole floor of the ballroom shaking during a gig and feeling as though they were going to end up in the English Channel. Maybe that day had finally arrived?
It was the end of an era, and the end of the pier shows. For now at least......
(Thanks to Steve Amos for the quote from his review of this gig. Find out more at: www.steveamosblog.wordpress.com )