I have (or used to have) all the Velvet Underground albums but apart form a couple of recent solo offerings, John Cale’s music has largely passed me by, so I came to this with an open mind and mild expectations, only to be mildly disappointed… Complimented by a string quartet for some of the show, drums, guitars, bass, and an Apple-adorned effects man, Cale (who played keys and guitar) dug deep into his catalogue of solo material that spans 40 years and almost any genre you can think of; from New Wave punk to rhythmic rock, via flourishes of Arabia, country rock and dramatic pop. There were no frills tonight, just a straight-ahead gig with very little inter-song chat, many of the songs relying on the intricate guitar work of the lead guitarist for added texture and interest, when the strings weren’t in action. Some of his material is clever, progressive affairs that shift key and mood seamlessly, others are repetitive groove-laden pieces that gently rock, but most of all the music relied on his thoughtful, poetic lyrics including the words of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’, sung in Cale’s distinctive if somewhat less-than-assured voice. A little underwhelming as a whole, it was a short night playing to an unsurprisingly enthusiastic if less than full house.
Concert Hall, Brighton Dome, 23 May