John Cale reinvented all of The Velvet Underground & Nico and most of White Light / White Heat last night at Philharmonie de Paris. Backed by his core band and wealth of guest vocalists he didn't follow the blueprints (or running order) of the albums, but transformed them in something new. Those sometimes drastic reinterpretations evolving around the keyboards and guitar worked really well - I'm Waiting For The Man was slowed down, There She Goes Again got close to a modern dance club hit thanks to the guys of Animal Collective. Quite a few people left during Mark Lanegan's haunting The Black Angel's Death Song, proving that it is still to scary for some after The Velvet Underground played it once too often at the Cafe Bizarre in 1965.
Carl Barât and Pete Doherty (The Libertines) brought an extra dose of garage rock and feedback mayhem to European Son, White Light / White Heat, and Run Run Run (somewhere Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison must have smiling). French singers Étienne Daho and Lou Doillon failed to connect. The former looked rather nervous and avoided taking risks during I'll Be Your Mirror and the latter sounded flat during Femme Fatale. By contrast: Saul Williams was a revelation: he delivered an icy vocal for Lady Godiva's Operation and turned the rush and the despair of Heroin into a beautiful nightmare - the undisputed highlight in the post-show discussions. Sister Ray, with all the guests on stage, was loud and defiant (it could have been a bit of longer) and since there's no point in playing another song after that one, the concert came to an end.
The background visuals turned it into a flawless multimedia event, a feast for ears and eyes. Not bad for an obscure act that needed a couple of decades to be fully appreciated as a major musical force. With Cale at the top of his game songs that were recorded nearly fifty years ago are still relevant and avant-garde. The Philharmonie was filled with an all-ages audience, ranging from hip students in their early twenties to long time time Velvet Underground fans who couldn't believe that the music that they have cherished fro so long can take on another lease of life, thanks to the man who was the band's musical Svengali. At 74 John Cale is still working hard at finding new sounds and new horizons.
John Cale: vocals, viola, keyboards
Dustin Boyer: lead guitar, samples
Joey Maramba: bass
Deantoni Parks: drums
Guests: Carl Barât and Pete Doherty (The Libertines) on guitar and vocals; Avey Tqare, Geologist and Panda Bear (Animal Collective) on vocals and keyboards; Nick Franglen (Lemon Jelly) on keyboards and samples; Étienne Daho, Mark Lanegan, Saul Williams, Lou Doillon on vocals.
- I'm Waiting For The Man
- European Son(w/ Carl Barât and Pete Doherty)
- Lady Godiva's Operation (w/ Saul Williams)
- All Tomorrow's Parties (w/ Mark Lanegan)
- Venus In Furs
- I'll Be Your Mirror (w/ Étienne Daho)
- The Gift
- There She Goes Again (w/ Animal Collective)
- Sunday Morning
- White Light / White Heat (w/ Carl Barât and Pete Doherty)
- Femme Fatale (w/ Lou Doillon)
- The Black Angel's Death Song (w/ Mark Lanegan)
- Run Run Run (w/ Carl Barât and Pete Doherty)
- Heroin (w/ Saul Williams)
- Sister Ray (w/ all guests)