Union Chapel, London, UK
Review and photo by Cormac
John and band took the stage bang on time at 8.30: half an hour late. No big deal really as the Union Chapel is a proper groovy joint. It is exactly how it sounds: a chapel. Complete with pulpit. I was accompanied by Ed Bennett, a composer friend who decided to come along as my fiancée is out of the country. We were taking in the stain glass windows and the effect the sun setting was having on them. Some of the windows were classically ornate, others were very simple with very simple messages. One absurdly just read "Little Children." WTF?
We were all sitting in the pews drinking our drinks. Bit like waiting for mass except this was going to be fun and irreverend but probably less dangerous hopefully.
The band started slowly making their way in and the Cale sang out loud. The sound started off quite muddy but that was to be expected. He played the first three songs running into each other - Over Her Head; Lament; Waiting For Blonde - so we weren't able to applaud really until after Waiting for Blonde by which stage the sound had righted itself and the band were proper cooking. (The drummer was amazing during these first songs showing a commendable restraint).
Do Not Go Gentle was powering away into the set. I must note that as the gig grew the sun was setting more and more resulting in a very atmospheric gig. When the gig kicked off it was pretty much daylight so by this stage it was getting duskier.
Verses was rocking and The Endless Plain Of Fortune was amazing. The bass player was doing arpeggio chords throughout. Bit like Philip Glass except not as annoying. The dexterity he showed made his set. After this they blasted into Venus In Furs which was an obvious crowd pleaser. This song underlined his presence in the Velvets. The red, red lighting set a very seedy, and in this case, a very hellish atmosphere. An atmosphere which seemed to possess the guitarist excellently.
Set Me Free was pretty colour by numbers but why the hell not. It's a great song. It was good to hear the band version of Things. Certainly for me it was one of the highlights of the gig. It got all the 50 plusses in the audience headbobbing. This then flowed into a very well destructed Fear. The version sounded as paranoid as the lyrics and in a way was more theatre than music.
Paris 1919 kicked in good and proper. A real rocker acting like a prelude of things to come. Yay! E is Missing sounded great in a bleak way. A song of real desolation.
Model Beirut Recital cranked out the rock in its riff package. Gun followed. I should state that I got into Cale 7 years ago and have waited since then to see Gun played live with a band. I wasn't disappointed. He seemed to cut the version down a bit but that was OK. I was glad to finally find out how it is supposed to be played. Pablo Picasso was all wrong in all the right ways. I mean it's just such a *wrong* song both lyrically and musically. Great it was. The band left and crowd went mad. They clapped continually til the band retook the stage.
Chorale was so good I can hardly remember probably mainly because Heartbreak Hotel was phenomenal. John was proper losing it in a couple of places much to the delight of me and Ed. Cale finished up and left to a standing ovation.
Again the audience clapped until he took the stage again, this time unaccompanied. He picked up the guitar and played a beautiful version of Thoughtless Kind. The sound was impeccable and we then realised how well he had us in his hand. All you could hear was his voice and his guitar and it sounded fecking religious.
Then he started into Wilderness Approaching which gets better and better the more you listen to it. After that he went straight into Hallelujah. Now that definitely was heavenly. The best version I heard ever. Also it seemed to top of the gig perfectly. The audience knew this and gave him another well deserved ovation. I put it up there as the best gig I have probably ever been to. In London anyway.
The sun had proper set.