John Cale
Fear Is A Man's Best Friend - John Cale

Live reviews

John Cale in London 2010-03-05 (c) Fabio Lugaro

London 2010-03-05

Live at the Royal Festival Hall, London, UK - March 5, 2010. Performs Paris 1919 live in its entirety with The Heritage Orchestra.

Review by Ken Clark

The band:
Dustin Boyer: lead guitar
Michael Jerome: drums
Josh Schwartz: bass
and the Heritage Orchestra

Child's Christmas in Wales
Hanky Panky Nohow
The Endless Plain of Fortune
Paris 1919
Graham Greene
Half Past France
Antarctica Starts Here
Femme Fatale
Rosegarden Funeral of Sores
Heartbreak Hotel
Fear Is A Man's Best Friend
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Hedda Gabler
Dirty Ass Rock 'n' Roll

After the successful Cardiff performance, it was a delight to be able to see "Paris 1919" in London in the refurbished and nearly sold out Royal Festival Hall.

The Heritage Orchestra consisted of 19 musicians and a conductor: 2 bass violins, 3 cellos, 10 violins, 1 trombone and 3 other brass players. They blended in superbly with Cale's current touring band bringing great depth and flourishes to the pieces.

In the past artists would generally play new material and avoid their previously successful "hits" either artistic or commercial. In recent years groups and individuals have had great success revisiting some of their most acclaimed albums.

"Paris 1919" is indeed one of Cale's finest albums and to see him perform it in 2010 with the orchestra is a rare treat. He wore a charcoal grey suit with a large white shirt and black tie, nicely offsetting his long multicoloured hair. He was in fine voice and clearly relishing some of the choice phrasings and word play that he had composed 37 years ago which were equally relevant and contemporary.

The album itself if very short and the concert seemed to whiz by in about hour. There was a 10 minute break and then he played a selection of his repertoire with his current touring band. Although these pieces are among his most familiar works, he managed to inject them with unusual nuances and inflections. Heartbreak Hotel was again deconstructed with hip hop beats but still managing to be different from versions played on previous tours. Fear had a different middle section.

Poster for the London show

For the final two songs the orchestra reappeared. "Hedda Gabler" was especially magnificent with an elegiac pacing, a perfect way to finish the performance.

After much enthusiastic applause, the core band came back on and blazed through "Dirty Ass Rock 'n Roll", again a familiar song but still played with much passion and flare.

Cale was clearly touched by the warm applause and touched his heart several times during the final blows.

Although the whole concert was not very long, it was all performed to a high level of quality with a wonderful overall sound. Many artists have tried to integrate an orchestra into a pop context and failed miserably. Cale showed how it could be done successfully without diluting any of the passion and intensity of the original work.

Hopefully he will tour with this to more cities in the near future.

His legacy with the Velvet Underground will always be unassailable. He is now making an excellent case for his stature as a solo artist within the pantheon of great rock artists.

Go and see him soon.

© 1999- Hans Werksman