By Craig Hubert | Last night at the Howard Gilman Opera House at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, John Cale assembled an eclectic group of musicians to pay tribute to Nico, the first part of a three-night residency that will see him, tomorrow and Saturday, perform his album “Paris 1919” in full. Cale wisely let the music stand on its own: many of the performers, including Joan as Police Women’s stunning rendition of “My Heart is Empty” and Stephin Merritt’s stark take on “No One is There,” stripped down the musical accompaniment to one or two instruments. Others went in the other direction: Kim Gordon and Bill Nace destroyed any recognizable element of “It Was a Pleasure Then,” turning the song into a long, noisy, and unintelligible dirge.
It was great to see musicians like Peaches and Allison Mosshart stretch beyond their normal comfort zones, but the highlight of the night, for us and for many in the audience based on the immediate reaction, was Sharon Van Etten’s mesmerizing take on, first, “Falconer,” joined by John Cale on piano, and later in the show, the heartbreaking “My Only Child,” which caused a woman sitting in front of us to openly weep. The show was non-sentimental, and there was little to no talk between performers – everyone just came on stage, quietly, performed their song, and walked off. When we spoke to Cale earlier this week, he told us that the goal was to focus on the songs and nothing else. Based on the reaction of people leaving the theater last night, we’d say he succeeded.
Image: Allison Mosshart/Stephanie Berger/Courtesy of BAM