Ancienne Belgique, Brussels, Belgium
Review by Marga Taris
A glorious day it was with all of of Brussels' attractions and majestic Gothic buildings bathing in sunlight... a stroll in the beautiful Parc de Bruxelles, Kilkennys in the outdoor cafe with a friend, while keeping a close watch on the venue to see when the queuing would start :), .... and finally John Cale to crown it all. It couldn't have been a more perfect day.
The concert was part of the Klara Festival of Vlaanderen and included a listening session: "The Dream Syndicate" in the small club prior to the show. My suspicions about this esoteric experimental oeuvre made me decide I would happily survive without, so I secured a position front stage instead, together with like minded people... the usual frontliners.
+/- 8.40 pm: enter the band.
John's hair has grown a tad wilder since I last saw him and there's this goatie thing going on now on the chin. The beginning of the philosophical stage?
In spite of the grey-ish/blue-ish (bloody floodlights) trousers he was wearing, embroidered by some fancy patterns, and the multicoloured sporty shoes of highly doubtful taste, he is always accorded automatic respect by the audience. And rightly so!
Thanks to the man's urge for change and innovation, his gift to keep reinventing his early work, the fresh new band!!, plus the fact that I belong to the rare species that hasn't heard Black Acetate yet, the night was full of surprises and novelties for me.
An ear-boggling event in a pleasant kind of way that one could capture as plain, authentic Rock 'n' Roll !! In intensity, noise, and energy it eclipsed everything I've witnessed by this man before.
I am convinced John was predestined to play Rock music. He seems quite comfortable and happy in that world. Mmmm.... well, there was one awkward situation though, when the acoustic guitar refused to cooperate. JC is always very alert, critical and sharp, keeps giving signals either to the band, when he wants to gear up or down, or prepare everyone on stage for the song's final soundblast, or, to the local sound technician that comes with Ancienne Belgique when he decides the mic or guitar needs more power. When during 'Set Me Free' there was something wrong with the sound on stage, when his playing was outdrowned by Dusty's acrobatics on lead guitar, he heavily gesticulated several times to the mixing guy in the wings to get his attention. Nothing changed. Our hero who had been in a good mood so far turned a little impatient, pointed at his guitar again and again while looking at this person, responsible for all misery, in magnificent disdain.
Oh hell, is this another sound-chap on the verge of getting fired?.... where's Creed when you need him... (on tour with Mindless Self Indulgence I'm afraid)
No, JC doesn't have a talent for masquerading his frustrations on stage. hahaha.
Anyway, towards the last verse of 'Things' the lead guitarist all of a sudden made a discovery, he shouted to John, pointed at the guitar and laughed! – ooops - just for a brief instant of course.... a simple case of an empty battery? Modern technology. Lots of removing-and-replacing of acoustic guitars followed. (just how many does he own?) Too late, he would not touch the instrument again but relied on the electric collection instead. Well, no complaints here. It was one of those 'electric nights' anyway. :)
The band was really impressive, very tight, yet adventurous, and this was only their third show! These guys all exhibited a healthy enthusiasm. The lead guitarist especially was extraordinary, the things he can do with the instrument - during "Gun" !!
Highlights for me were:
Judging by the loud applause, cheering and shouts such as "SNOWDONIA ROCKS!" I assume the audience were satisfied.
"Me too, loved it!".... she said, secretly hoping for one or two more ballads tonight.
Maybe "Gravel Drive". Please?