Review: John Cale & Friends

The word legendary is used way to often. But, sorry, it’s about to be used three times in a single sentence, and each one is completely justified. The legendary John Cale, co-founder of the legendary Velvet Underground recently recruited an eclectic bunch of friends and fans to play the group’s legendary debut album in full – as well as some choice cuts from later albums. The not even a bit legendary Domonkos Gargyan was lucky enough to be in the audience.

With the 50th anniversary of the release of The Velvet Underground’s (yep, here comes that word again) legendary debut album upon us, the only active member of the line-up that created this musical milestone is John Cale. 

Surrounded by young indie guests and an amazing backing band, he recently recreated those 11 slices of avant-garde genius at a very special gig in Liverpool.

The fact is, of course, those songs could never replicate the sound of the studio recordings, although this is quite conceivably the biggest crowd these songs have ever been performed for. 

After a slightly extended I’m Waiting For The Man, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince of The Kills join in for a rendition of White Light/White Heat. 

From then on, guests pass the mike on to each other, from song to song. A high point is Femme Fatale sung by South Tyneside indie artiste Nadine Shah. Fat White Family’s Lias Saoudi, who some apparently mistook for ex-Verve singer Richard Ashcroft, gives a spectacular performance of Heroin. All the guests return for Sister Ray, which is turned into a half-hour-long chant. 

Despite the lack of introductions to songs and problems with volume at the start, a besotted audience gets to experience a cult classic brought to vivid life by one of its (one more time) legendary creators. 

Words by Domonkos Gargyan

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