John Cale: Emigre / Lost and Found
Brighton Dome, 23 May 2011
Set list and personnel from Here Comes The Flood blog
John Cale: vocals, guitar, keyboards
Dustin Boyer: lead guitar
Michael Jerome: drums
Erik Sanko: bass
Nick Franglen: Powerbook samples, keyboard, drone box
The Heritage String Quartet: two violins, viola, cello. (** songs with strings)
- Captain Hook
- Look Horizon
- Chinese Envoy
- Half Past France **
- Riverbank **
- Buffalo Ballet **
- Do Not Go gentle Into That Good Night **
- Caravan **
- Ship of Fools
- Dancing Undercover
- Satellite Walk
- Letter from Abroad
- Gravel Drive **
- Helen of Troy
This one-off concert was billed as Émigré / Lost and Found, with the theme of songs with a “longing for home.” We saw the Paris 1919 concert in Norwich a year ago, so approached with high expectations. He met them, even with a smaller orchestra. Michael Jerome (drums) and Dustin Boyer (guitar) were with him last year. According to the web set list, NYC bassist Erik Sanko replaced Josh Schwartz.
Compare the set lists. Brighton 2011 shares just the one song with 12 months ago, Half Past France (from Paris 1919). Few artists can do that. He’s playing Paris 1919 again in Barcelona five days later. The advance information made much of the special selection of songs for this one show. The catalogue is long and varied. It’s hard to say whether these were his songs most related to the topic of being abroad, after all, just about every song on Paris 1919 would have fitted the bill. There was a lot there that I didn’t immediately recognize, but in every case the melody and lyrics pulled me straight in. I have to say I know the VU stuff, then Vintage Violence and Paris 1919 well, then my knowledge is spotty right up to Hobo Sapiens in 2003, which is where I rediscovered him. I’d bought Slow Dazzle and Fear and then drifted away. I wasn’t keeping a list so am grateful to those more knowledgeable than I who did. And later, John Cale’s own site confirmed it. Still, with the help of the posted setlist I had fun tracing it all today and buying the songs individually on iTunes to create a fascinating ‘Émigré: Lost and Found’ Playlist. You can do this at home! Well, nearly. Sanctuary / Live for Captain Hook isn’t on iTunes, nor is Dancing Undercover from Walking on Locusts (it’s on YouTube), and you need to check under “Roger Eno” to find the Eno / Cale collaboration Words for The Dying for Do Not Go Gentle Into That Night (but that’s one of the LPs I did get on release).
Hobo Sapiens was the best represented studio album with three songs: Look Horizon, Caravan and Letter From Abroad
The set blasted off with the long thrashy instrumental intro to Captain Hook (From Sabotage / Live), with Cale on keyboards, and no string section. When the words finally came in, they were smack bang on the theme:
Tried to break India’s back, but she broke the back of me.
That line up lasted till Amsterdam (from Vintage Violence, so the first one I knew all the words to). In contrast to last year’s show material, it was very different from the original. A bizarre lighting plot involved suddenly motoring three red spots round onto the audience. It actually made your eyes hurt. Was it a joke about Amsterdam and red lights? Who knows. I do know I was lost in the song until then and it completely broke my reverie.
When the string quartet joined him, he started Half Past France, which brought the biggest recognition cheer of the evening. With all of Paris 1919 to do on the next Saturday, he was sticking to just the one though. I thought the strings were a little too low in volume in their first number, then fine for the rest. The Dylan Thomas quote was Do Not Go Gentle Into That Night which Cale set to music in 1989 for the inauguration of the Welsh National Assembly. The string quartet stayed on for the middle of the set, and seemed a bit unsure when they left after Caravan.
Cale moved to rhythm guitar for the rest of the main set. On Satellite Walk the guy on Mac Powerbook came into his own, on a track from Artificial Intelligence that sounded like Roxy Music meets Buggles and Sparks. (Cale’s own site places this last of the main set, but it was second to last). Letter From Abroad finished the set, and was totally reworked. The chorus on Afghanistan alternated with new lines on Pakistan. This was very powerful and also more coherent than the original. My first thought was that this was what the Velvet Underground actually wanted to sound like, but technology back then couldn’t deliver the power. Also, wonderful as Mo Tucker was on drums, she never had the sheer strength and power of Michael Jerome. The bass all evening was exemplary, both in sound and execution. It had a hard percussive tone and was another rhythm instrument at times, holding the main riff of the song at others. Dustin Boyer is a great guitarist, always unusual, never giving that predictable solo. The three band members shone in Letter From Abroad.
The encores started with Gravel Drive (from Black Acetate), just Cale on acoustic guitar with the string quartet for the quietest most meditative piece of the evening. I know Cale left the VU before the third album, but this sounded like the third VU album mood to me. Someone shouted out ‘John Cale – You are a genius.’ This brought a little smile and an amused ‘Calm down!’ This was a John Cale show, so as soon as Gravel Drive ended, the string section went off, he strapped on a Stratocaster, and he launched into a raucous and loud Helen of Troy.
Cale’s is as powerful a singer as ever. The best word was ‘potent’. He has charisma and force and never bothers with chit chat. Comparing it to the Paris 1919 show last year, I prefer the Paris 1919 set. That’s familiarity with songs and words that have been under my skin for years. It’s also that the strings are used to such good effect (a viola player does know how to arrange them) that having twice as many and a horn section has to be a richer experience than just the four. But now I have my new Playlist, and next time all these will be familiar. Except he has enough quality material to do a totally different selection next time too.
See: Eden On Line review HERE
We both pulled out the same quote on Captain Hook!
It wouldn’t be one of my reviews without moaning about SOMETHING and there was nothing but perfection on stage. Given a choice of two venues, I’d avoid the Brighton Dome. We drove 100 miles arriving around five. Big sign NCP (Theatre) Car Park just up the road from the dome. So you get down the ramp, no way back, and see “4-24 hours: £20”. The theatre had no signs for parking concessions, but when we asked, we were told a validated ticket would give us 25% discount. It didn’t. The discount only works 6 to midnight. You can’t drive a long way without allowing 30 minutes spare for traffic hold ups, and if you aimed to arrive at 6, but got there at 6.30 you’d be hard pushed to eat in time.
John Cale had to pay nine musicians, sound engineers, equipment hire, transport, lighting set up; and the hall had to be staffed, cleaned and lighted, 20% VAT had to be paid. My ticket cost £25. But for £20 NCP merely provide a rectangle of concrete for five hours. Brighton Council are at fault. If the NCP want to advertise “Theatre Car Park” they should give concessions. The same company can afford to in London’s Trafalgar Square where you get reduced price theatre parking. You can’t get more central or urban than that. In Poole, theatre goers park for the evening for about £1, and the concert hall is just as good. And they serve hot drinks, which Brighton didn’t.