By Craig Hubert | John Cale returned to the Howard Gilman Opera House at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Friday night for the second part of a three-night residency. Accompanied by the Wordless Music Orchestra, Cale stumbled on stage and went right into “Child’s Christmas in Wales,” the first song off the album “Paris 1919,” which he played in full. Cale, a man of few words, did not banter between songs or take time to loosen up – he went from song to song at a marathon pace, racing through the 35-minute album in a flash. It seemed rushed in the way that Bob Dylan‘s recent live performances seem rushed (both singers appear to have a disregard for their older compositions, and they play around and change them up when they’re on stage). Because the arrangements were locked down, due to the orchestra, Cale sped the tempo, messed with the lyrical phrasing, and let his guitarist solo wildly over the orchestra. It was awkward at times, jarring even, but if you sat down expecting Cale to play the album note for note, lyric for lyric, you should have stayed home and listened to the record.
Thankfully, after a 20 minute intermission, Cale returned to perform a set of songs that included the rare “Hedda Gabler,” “Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night” (the singer’s ode to the poet Dylan Thomas), and, as a riveting final encore, the Velvet Underground‘s “Venus in Furs.” Cale seemed more comfortable, the band seemed to enjoy not being buried behind an orchestra, and the crowd, after a tame first half, left the venue buzzing and excited.
Image: John Cale/Courtesy of BAM