Saturday, 6 March 2010

Paris 1919 - London 2010

Every now and then in an idle moment I find myself drawing up a list of my top ten albums - I'm sure those of you old enough to remember albums do the same. The list is different every time I do it, but there are a few albums that pop up more than others. One of them is John Cale's 1973 classic "Paris 1919".

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I heard that Mr Cale was coming to the Royal Festival Hall with a band and orchestra to perform "Paris 1919" in its entirety. The concert was last night, and it was every bit as good as I had hoped. His voice was never the strongest so I was a bit uncertain beforehand whether it was holding up, but he sounded great and seemed to get stronger as the show went on. You would certainly never think he is going to be 68 next Tuesday.

The evening started with a brief set by Patrick Wolf, accompanied only by a lady violinist. I hadn't heard him before but he made a good impression and played the ukelele, which I know will endear him to at least one reader.

The main event consisted of two short sets. The first set was "Paris 1919", played almost in sequence. Purists will be disappointed to note that they moved "Macbeth" to the end. I suppose it makes for a more rousing finale but being an old fart who thinks sequencing matters I still think "Antarctica Starts Here" makes the perfect closer. The sound mix wasn't quite right in the opening "Child's Christmas In Wales", but once that was sorted out the rest of the set was fantastic. Apart from Mr Cale himself, particular credit goes to the guitarist, the cellists and - on "Graham Greene" - the trombone dude.

After a short break Mr Cale and the band returned and treated us to a version of "Amsterdam" that was very different from the original on "Vintage Violence" - as my companion Mr Jackson noted, it was strongly reminiscent of The Blue Nile, which can only be a good thing. We then got top notch renditions of "Femme Fatale", "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Fear Is A Man's Best Friend". The orchestra rejoined them for Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" and a superb "Hedda Gabler". Apart from a rocking encore of "Dirty Ass Rock 'n Roll" that was it.

It was not a long set - I doubt we got more than 70 minutes of music off him, and another half an hour would have been good. But if the evening skimped on quantity the quality more than made up for it.

Here are the original "Paris 1919" recordings of a couple of last night's highlights:

"The Endless Plain Of Fortune" - John Cale

"Antarctica Starts Here" - John Cale

And here is a clip from 1983 of Mr Cale doing one of the songs I was hoping he would do last night but didn't - "I Keep A Close Watch":

I mentioned that Mr Cale turns 68 next week. Last Thursday another great Welsh singer turned 62, so I think we should pay tribute to him as well. Belated happy birthday, Shaky!!!

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