Three reviews of September 30th's concert in Royce Hall with

John Cale, Little Feat, and the UC Harmonia.

***From the Los Angeles Times, by Mikael Wood--

Live review: John Cale at UCLA's Royce Hall

October 1, 2010 |  5:06 pm

John Cale shows tenderness and emotion in performing his classic work at UCLA.

John_cale_lat_2_3_4On his 1973 orchestral-pop landmark, “Paris 1919,” John Cale pulled inspiration from all over the map: In addition to the title track and “Half Past France,” the album also contains “Andalucia,” “Antarctica Starts Here” and “Child's Christmas in Wales,” the last titled after a prose poem by Cale's fellow Welshman Dylan Thomas.

But Cale recorded “Paris 1919” here in Los Angeles not long after leaving the Velvet Underground, and Thursday night at UCLA's Royce Hall he brought the album home in a tender, seemingly heartfelt performance that demonstrated how interested in melody this veteran noisemaker remains.

Backed by his regular three-piece band and the UCLA Philharmonia, the 68-year-old singer and multi-instrumentalist played all of “Paris 1919” (albeit in slightly altered sequence), joining a growing group of arty rockers who've taken to presenting their classic albums in concert. “Child's Christmas in Wales” was luscious and winsome, “Macbeth” fuzzy and amped-up. “Andalucia” had a pastoral vibe that summoned a sense of the dislocation Cale has said he experienced while living in L.A., far from his Old World roots.

Much of the original record's charm came from the fruitful interplay between Cale and the members of Little Feat, the L.A.-born boogie-rock combo that accompanied him. At Royce Hall, drummer Michael Jerome gave the music some understated swing, particularly during “Graham Greene,” in which his reggae-inflected groove contrasted tartly with the Philharmonia's strings; Joey Muñoz's jaunty trombone solo was an especially tasty choice too.

Cale dodged a handful of delicate high notes, his voice a craggier thing than it used to be. But Thursday's performance felt like more than a diminished take on a once-vital text; Cale was investigating the music's wounded romance, figuring out nearly 40 years later how much of it still rings true.

After an intermission, Cale returned to the stage in a pair of improbably snug-fitting white jeans and led his band through an hour or so of jittery, harder-edged folk-rock: pared-down versions of songs such as “Gideon's Bible,” from Cale's first solo album; and “Win a Few,” by his frequent collaborator Nico. Two younger alt-culture types, growly Mark Lanegan and sweet-voiced Ben Gibbard (the latter of Death Cab for Cutie), put in cameos that attested to Cale's influence.

Here he was most appealing when pushing toward something uglier and more intransigent than “Paris 1919” — his deranged art-funk take on “Heartbreak Hotel,” for example, or “Hedda Gabler,” for which the Philharmonia reappeared. In their encore, Cale and his sidemen offered up a long, needling rendition of “Pablo Picasso,” the Modern Lovers song from that band's Cale-produced debut. As in the Velvet Underground days, the music seemed to want to outlast the crowd's attention.

--Mikael Wood


***From the OC Register

John Cale revisits ‘Paris 1919′ superbly at UCLA

There was an embarrassment of riches for music lovers in Los Angeles Thursday night — concert-goers could choose between Pavement and Sonic Youth at the Hollywood Bowl, Spoon at the Palladium, McCoy Tyner at the Catalina club, Benji Hughes at Largo and Jamie Lidell at the Echoplex. While I can’t speak for the others, those who opted to spend their evening with John Cale performing his 1973 work Paris 1919 at Royce Hall — the kickoff to this year’s UCLA Live season — were treated to a very special night of music.

It’s hard not to call Paris a lost classic. Cale’s second album after leaving the Velvet Underground is one of those records that remains off most listeners’ radar, yet once they hear it, they’re hooked. Recorded in L.A. and backed by Little Feat, it’s an elusive, contemplative, literate collection of songs dealing with, among other things, the last days of WWI — or as the concert’s title had it, “When past and future collide.” Needless to say, it left many Velvets fans scratching their heads and, even in the wide-open days of the early ’70s, never received the kind of airplay or promotion needed to help it find a bigger audience.

As performed Thursday night by Cale plus a rock trio and the 19-piece UCLA Philharmonia, conducted by Neal Stulberg, the album remains vivid and fresh, with the ability to surprise. Cale took the stage in a gray suit and tie with a shaggy head of platinum white hair — he looked like a colonialist gone to seed or a slightly disreputable version of George Plimpton. The first set followed the album song-for-song, from the processional “Child’s Christmas in Wales,” a memory of peace mixed with oddly violent imagery, to the ghostly soldier’s lament “Antarctica Starts Here.” (Only “Macbeth,” a grand rocker that never really seemed to fit the concept, was moved from its place at the end of Side 1 to the last song of the set.)

It took a while for the band and orchestra to find the right mix; the wonderful drumming of Michael Jerome, for instance, lost some oomph due to plexiglass sound-dampening panels. Some of that was balanced out by the Victory at Sea bombast of “Endless Plain of Fortune,” although guitarist Dustin Boyer tended to overplay. The arrangements also didn’t follow the album exactly — the proto-reggae “Graham Greene” sported a trombone right out of ska and a violin section that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a Cuban dance band, while the title song boasted a pompous French horn that pierced the ornate, Versailles-like strings.

Following an intermission, the second set ranged throughout Cale’s career, from the sprightly pop of “Hello, There” to the slyly mournful “Hedda Gabbler” to his Grand Guignol revamping of “Heartbreak Hotel,” given a less over-the-top reading than on 1975’s Slow Dazzle, with jittery drum machines and samples replacing the record’s hulking guitars and sounding even creepier than usual.

And if you want to get an idea of how broad Cale’s influence remains, try to think of another performer who could get both Mark Lanegan and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard on the same stage. Lanegan shined especially bright on Nico’s Middle Eastern-styled “Win a Few,” from the chilly chanteuse’s final, Cale-produced album, Camera Obscura. Gibbard’s light yearning vocals were a perfect fit for a rollicking “Gideon’s Bible,” and they both harmonized with Cale on the evening’s finale, “Chorale.”

But before that, Cale pulled out the stops with a whiplash take on the ultra-violent “Gun” and Jonathan Richman’s “Pablo Picasso.” Together they put the exclamation point on an evening that showed off Cale’s impressive breadth of talents.

File photo of John Cale, from a 2006 performance in Brno, Czech Republic, courtesy of The Associated Press.


*** From the L.A. Weekly, by Gustavo Turner

Live Review: John Cale Performs "Paris 1919" at Royce Hall


John Cale_UCLA Live-12.JPG
Reed Hutchinson/UCLA Live

John Cale: still cooler than you


John Cale's album before Paris 1919 was called The Academy in Peril. Last night, at UCLA's Royce Hall, the academy was never in real peril.

Sure, there were a couple of moments (see below), when the academy was under a vague risk of being slightly soiled, of being smeared a little with the street-level grime of the Velvets' Ludlow St. flophouse that has always provided Cale's erudition with its soul and joie de vivre. But overall, it was a genteel affair fit for UCLA live and their main NPR constituency (yup, that was Jason Bentley DJing the afterparty.)

Here's what we wrote last week for the Music Pick preview of this show: "Cale has been playing in public since his teens, first as an avant-garde classical music prodigy, then as a member of the most legendary (almost hallowed in most circles) lineup of the Velvet Underground, and for over forty years as an eccentric, always surprising solo artist. He's done it all and he's always been younger and cooler than you'll ever be. He might be playing all of Paris 1919, but it's always the most fervent version of the present in Cale-land."

Well, last night's show was certainly a version of the present, but it wasn't very fervent. Only a couple of times (again, see below) did we get glimpses of the feverish genius behind one of the most influential musical compositions of the 20th century, "Sister Ray," and the daring explorer working with the Theatre of Eternal Music (check out Cale's drony tapes for LaMonte Young released as Sun Blindness Music--then realize it was 1965 and he was 23).

The rest of the time we got a pleasant dinnertime concert in a sit-down hall full of professorial types and public radio subscribers, with a strict "no photo" policy annoyingly enforced by an army of uniformed student-ushers. This was strictly 20th century bourgeois entertainment, perhaps fitting to the imagery and aura of the album that was being celebrated.

Paris 1919 is a hyper-literate concoction, haunted by all kinds of ghosts, mainly Graham Greene's (who was very much alive at the time). There are also echoes of the world of the young, disaffected Hitler, because this wouldn't be a classic Cale album without a couple of nods to perversion to make the comfortable less so. And the songs are credited to publishing company Tin Pan Punk Music. Yes, Cale was making Punk Music in 1973, while John Lydon was still deciphering Van Der Graaf Generator.

But Paris 1919 is also a secret Los Angeles record: it was recorded here, it features Little Feat's Lowell George, and Cale famously drafted the 1973 version of the UCLA Orchestraa group of classically trained USC students to add a high-culture patina to his compositions [nobody knows why the UCLA orchestra was officially credited by the label.]

Last night the 68-year-old enfant terrible was joined by the 2010 incarnation of the UCLA best-and-brightest classical performers (fact: all most likely born in the 1990s). During the couple of moments of high energy/high weirdness, the prim collegians looked a little confused by the intensity of the rocking Welshman doing things that colleges these days like to call "inappropriate" (if they only knew...)

It was fun to watch Cale, who in life-experience-years is about 300 years old and has the deportment of a vital vortex of coolness, try to lead these kids through his strange body of work for the amusement of a crowd mostly made up of Greil Marcus- and Camille Paglia- lookalikes.

Musical tweaks to Paris 1919 were minimal and subtle: the title track is still the most wonderful thing about the album and it wasn't really tampered with, "Graham Greene" was given a reggae-from-another-dimension makeover, and the rollicking side-1-closer "Macbeth" (which had been Cale's attempt to get a glam single out of the album in the era of "Spirtit in the Sky" and Marc Bolan) was moved to the end of the whole set.

The most moving moment was the meditative "Half Past France," where Cale unleashed the unique power of his voice, a perfect blend of nostalgia and authority, and those with good memories were reminded that his were the pipes that rescued "Hallelujah" from being an obscure Leonard Cohen album track and struck Jeff Buckley to the core.

After the intermission, Cale changed into tight white trousers and delved deep into his eccentric catalog. He opened (of course) with "Hello There," from his first solo album Vintage Violence. Nice poppy appetizer, but right after he put down his acoustic guitar and we got the first real John Cale moment of the evening: yet another twist on his live cover tour de force, Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel."

Distorted vocals, deep, dark moods, skronky guitars: the academy in discomfort. Amazing. This was the first time the concert could have gone in a deliciously weird direction, but then gears were changed and we were back to NPR-land. Time for the guests: Mark Lanegan (his lugubrious usual--an aged Jim Morrison to make the over-39 ladies swoon) and Death Cab/Postal Service/Zooey spouse Ben Gibbard (the gentle bard of your morning commute).

Cale and his group backed Lanegan on Vintage Violence's "Ghost Story," given a disjointed-jazz, Residents-y arrangement, and then they played a straight-up country rewrite of Fear's "Ship of Fools" behind Gibbard's soft croon, and Vintage's "Gideon's Bible" as much more bossa-inflected.

Lanegan returned to reprise his version of Nico's "Win a Few" (from the Cale-produced Camera Obscura), which they had done years before at a tribute for the tragic chanteuse. Last night's arrangement was loopy (it sounded at times like the Chemical Brother's relooping of "Tomorrow Never Knows") with a short dip into improv with an orientalist synth solo.

The two new songs ("Whaddya Mean" and "Catastrophic") were the least interesting part of the show, though with Cale one never knows. He might be onto something the rest of us will only go "ha!" 20 years from now.

He kept it deep-cut with an orchestrated version of "Secret Corrida," from the ultra-obscure Walking With Locusts (1996). And he closed the main set with "Hedda Gabler," from a 1976 EP, which built up to a cinematic end and a series of controlled incantations, "sleep, Hedda Gabler."

The encore was the second time after "Heartbreak Hotel" where we caught a glimpse of Cale's furious genius. The orchestra filed in, they sat on their seats and then Cale and guitar player Dustin Boyer locked into a symbiotic, brutal version of Fear's "Gun," to the confused looks of the young violinists sitting among them. In other shows of this tour, the local orchestra augmented the rocking-out, but the UCLA kids just sat there in awe. And then the groove began to turn serious.

Cale switched mid-song into a demonic version of Jonathan Richman's "Pablo Picasso" ("was never called an asshole--not in New York"), chugging steady and spitting the verses until they turned into speaking-in-tongues hoodoo. The band jammed on. It was glorious for a second, but it came too late in the show.

There was a second encore, with Lanegan and Gibbard joining in on the kumbaya-like "Chorale," Cale's own "Hallelujah."

Very appropriate finale, for the academy.

 First half:
Child's Christmas in Wales
Hanky Panky Nohow
Endless Plain of Fortune
Paris 1919
Graham Greene
Half Past France
Antarctica Starts Here

Hello There
Heartbreak Hotel
Ghost Story (with Mark Lanegan)
Ship of Fools (with Ben Gibbard)
Gideon's Bible (with Ben Gibbard)
Win a Few (with Mark Lanegan)
Whaddya Mean
Secret Corrida
Hedda Gabler

Gun/Pablo Picasso

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Reed Hutchinson/UCLA Live