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Review: John Cale at the Showbox


Thursday December 6th John Cale of the Velvet Underground played the Showbox at the Market. It was an intimate affair with Cale singing some crowd favorites and lots of tunes from the new album Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood. Seeing him live was like seeing the seeds of so many bands, from the Magnetic Fields to Beck to Cake and beyond, Cale’s style and influence is not to be discounted. By hook or by crook, he’s the captain.

His rendition of ‘Helen of Troy’ had one of the best crowd responses with the repeated lyric “Say hey! Brother I fucked your mother.” I prefer his ballads. His wit and subtlety is clearest then. Cale understands the oldest DJ rule: always play two slow jams in a row. His performance of ‘I Wanna Talk 2 U‘ had strength, but lots of room to move around. Heads were nodding.

It seems clear that Cale’s band is made up of much younger musicians who look up to him. When he’s not making truly righteous lead guitar constipation faces, Cale’s guitarist watched him closely for shifts and changes. Same for his enthusiastic bass player. There was an extended drum solo early in the set that we can only assume was part of the drummer’s contract.

Live music being the house of cards that it is, there were a few sound issues. Perhaps it was a faulty mic, but when Cale stepped away from his keyboard and played guitar his vocals were far too quiet in the mix. It was jarring. He seems best at home behind his Kurzweil keyboard. Seeing that name on stage called forth the question of the singularity. If at that point John Cale is still writing songs, hopefully his robot body can sing.