November 2005

John Cale
Presented by Gary Topp
November 13 – 15, 2005 Lula Lounge Toronto
Beyond Velvet
by Stanley Fefferman with photos by Roger Humbert
John Cale is a take-charge guy, and the minute he steps onto the stage, you know it. The packed room at Lula Lounge just let go into Cale’s cool, neutral, lack of attitude manner that signals he can do anything he wants with his music. By the end of the one long set and 10 minute encore, Cale was sweating and many of the lovelies in the audience were grinding their hips.

The music he performed was mostly the very polished tunes on his most recent CD, Black Acetate. Here, as elsewhere, longtime fans ask Cale to play tunes from his “Velvet Underground” days, and sometimes he will throw one in. This night, a fan called out for “Venus in Furs,” and Cale replied, not unkindly, “Are you living in the past, or what?” Fact is “Venus” was on the set list but Cale scratched it out. Here is the set list as he wrote it down: Woman in my Past, Helen, Dancing/Evidence, Lights, Over her Head, Hush, Outta the Bag, Guts, Magritte, Look Horizon, Gun, In the Flood, Set Me Free, Things, Sold Motel, Perfect, Leaving it up to You.

Who were the fans? Diehard folks in their fifties (I talked to a few who came out for 2 shows) and a lot of people who weren’t even born when Cale co-founded the Velvet Underground in ‘65 with Lou Reed. How does Cale keep doing it? He plays with three younger guys backing him on arrangements that rock and on some quieter, hypnotic tunes. It helps that this man knows how to use his voice, and when the kick-ass encore came around, Cale could still scream all out.

Priya Thomas, a young Canadian artist, opened for Cale. Alone and surrounded by the bristling array of erect guitars (all awaiting Cale and his musicians), this lithe blond Venus in red seemed lost and vulnerable. Priya quickly dispelled that impression. Playing a low-strapped Stratocaster and backed by a pedalfull of electronics, she moaned and shouted out her staccatto acid ballads, snapping her head, stomping her boots and shooting her pick hand towards the sky. Vivid.

John Cale

Priya Thomas
We welcome your comments and feedback
Stanley Fefferman
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Roger Humbert
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