Arena, Vienna, Austria
Review by Patrick Vacek
While studying abroad in Vienna, I happened to see a placard for this concert and I knew I had to go. My sister was in town that week, so we went together. We figured that I was probably the youngest person in attendance, but that hardly affected my enjoyment of the show, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was almost surprised at the lack of Velvet Underground material Cale plays these days. It makes sense that he wouldn't play those songs as much, but one gets the feeling that that material forms the groundwork for the material he did play. After the intro drone, the band started out in full-on rock mode: two electric guitars, electric bass, and full drumset. I don't remember the setlist exactly, and I'm unfortunately not all that familiar with a lot of Cale's material (including the recent stuff), so I can only guess at an approximate order and the precise content. I think I remember five rocking songs before Cale moved over to the keyboard for the first time.
Despite the thorough introduction that Hey Ray got, I have to say it was the song I was least impressed with the whole night. The lilting lyrical delivery and choruses ticking off the years just didn't strike me strongly. (And it's not just because I'm young - I picked up on most of his references!) Heartbreak Hotel featured Cale's voice put through such a strong pitch shifter that I couldn't understand the lyrics and wasn't even sure if it was in fact Heartbreak Hotel. I think if the effect hadn't been quite so strong it would have worked really well.
About halfway through Cale started playing some of his softer old classics - Big White Cloud, Ghost Story, You Know More Than I Know, and Cable Hogue. These songs earned some serious applause from the audience. I think after setting down his electric guitar after the first five songs, Cale favored his acoustic guitar and keyboard most the rest of the night. One of the songs, maybe Big White Cloud or Buffalo Ballet, the guitarist picked up his acoustic guitar only to find that it wasn't producing sound, so he played the part on his electric until the tech fixed the acoustic guitar. For maybe four of the softer songs, the drummer came around to the front of his set for a while and sat down on a box. It was well-mic'd and he knew what he was doing, because he kept a solid beat going with it the whole while. I was impressed by the effectiveness of the simplicity. Now and then the bassist would also trade his electric for an acoustic stand-up.
I had noticed at the start of the show that I didn't see a viola anywhere on stage, and I told my sister that I just knew Cale would have to bring one out. Sure enough, right before the encore, he pulled his viola out from behind an amplifier or something and went right into Venus In Furs. Some of the audience members really got into it, despite the fact that it's not an easy song to dance to. Anyway, that was pretty cool.
After Cale left the stage, the audience kept cheering until he came back out for an encore. He went right into Fear, which got a great crowd response. (It's one of my favorites, too!) He followed the first chorus with a classical-styled interlude, and the bassist did a good job of capturing the noisy finish of the end of the song. They then rocked through a medley of Pablo Picasso and Mary Lou, which featured some extended jamming. After that, the band left the stage, the audience applauded, and the lights came on, so me and my sister figured the show was over. She went to the bathroom and I went to pick up my camera, which had been confiscated at the door. While waiting for my sister, Cale came back out to do Chorale, so I not only got to hear the beautiful finale, but I got to take a few blurry photographs. After that, my sister and I left for good, but for all I know he did another encore. I wouldn't put it past him, but I'm pretty sure that was the end. All in all a great night.