Posts Tagged ‘art-rock’

John Cale Whitley Bay Playhouse 31 October 2022

cale tixAs legends go, they don’t get much more legendary than John Cale. The man is an enigma and to be admired. Of Welsh origin, Cale studied art at Goldsmiths College London and then, in 1963, relocated to New York where he became part of the alternative music and art scene, meeting the likes of none other than Andy Warhol. In 1968 he hooked up with Lou Reed and formed the Velvet Underground. Respect!

Since then, Cale has collaborated with many great alternative artists including Iggy and the Stooges, Patti Smith and others. His solo work explores dark themes of alienation, pain, fear and the soul. His work is intriguing, sometimes almost impenetrable, but always worthy of exploration and of taking the time to listen to the messages he is giving us.

I last experienced John Cale live at the Sage, Gateshead some years ago with my son, David. It was a concert that was memorable, intriguing and exciting and David and I both enjoyed it. So, I was looking forward to seeing him live again. The concert was part of the annual Mouth of the Tyne Festival, and had been postponed for some time due to Covid.

j cale 1The Playhouse website announced the arrival of Cale thus: “Legendary musician John Cale is to play a special, intimate show at Playhouse Whitley Bay as part of this year’s Mouth of the Tyne Festival. One of the founder members of The Velvet Underground alongside Lou Reed, he was instrumental in the band’s early years and enjoyed acclaim stateside under the management of Andy Warhol. Cale brings over 6 decades of avant-garde music with him, having released over 30 albums, with his solo record ‘Paris 1919’ perhaps his best-known work. Cllr Sarah Day, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure said, “It’s a real coup to secure a show from one of rock’s most enduring performers. With a music style that’s hard to pinpoint, artists like this are real one-offs and I can’t wait to see him take to the stage at our Playhouse theatre this summer.””

The Playhouse was packed with a crowd who (judging from the eclectic range of T-shirts and dress sense in evidence) obviously enjoyed a mixture of musical genres ranging from punk, new wave aficionados to general classic rock fans. It was great to catch up with old friends Pauline and Rob from local legendary band Penetration in the bar for a chat prior to the show.

j cale 3We took our seats, carer Jan and I, close to the front. We had missed the performance by the support act (apologies) but were more than ready to see the main man perform. John Cale was backed by an excellent band and stood stage right behind his keyboard, performing a mixture of songs from throughout his career. Sadly, he did not perform any Velvet Underground tracks. On other nights of the tour the crowd were treated to a version of “Waiting for the Man”. The guy is 80 years old, still looks great and is still uncompromising in his music and performance. He did not speak to the audience but then it was enough just to be in the presence of a true legend. He took us through songs of angst, fear and lost love, finishing with a dark take of Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel”. And then he was gone. Leaving us with swirling psychedelic wailing tunes in our heads and the knowledge that we had been in the presence of one of the legends of art rock and new wave. And that, for me, was enough.

j cale 2Cale has just released a new album which is advertised: “MERCY, Cale’s first full album in a decade, moves through true dark-night-of-the-soul electronic torment toward vulnerable love songs and hopeful considerations for the future with the help of some of music’s most curious young minds. Cale has always searched for new ways to explore old ideas of alienation, hurt, and joy; MERCY is the latest transfixing find of this unsatisfied mind.” (Musicdirect.com site).

Setlist:  Jumbo in tha Modernworld; The Endless Plain of Fortune; Chinese Envoy; Dirty Ass Rock ‘n’ Roll; Mercy; Ghost Story; Pretty People; Guts; Villa Albani; Half Past France; Hanky Panky Nohow;     Moonstruck; Heartbreak Hotel

The Monochrome Set Durham University 1981

The Monochrome Set Durham University 1981
monoThe Monochrome Set was formed in London in 1978. The original line-up consisted of Indian-born lead singer and songwriter Bid, Canadian guitarist Lester Square, drummer John Haney and bass guitarist Charlie Harper. The band went through several bassists in the next few years. Experimental filmmaker Tony Potts began working with the band in 1979, designing their lighting and stage sets with the use of film projections for their live shows. The band’s early shows were defined by the shadowy, stage images created by his films and he is often described as being their “fifth member”. Today they are spoken of in reverential terms and are thought of as a seminal, legendary new wave / art-rock band. I only recall seeing the Monochrome Set once, at this gig at Durham University Dunelm Ballroom in 1981. By this point the line-up was John, Bid, Lester and Andy Warren on bass. My memories of the band are of a weird, slightly avant-garde arty new wave ensemble, very black and white (hence their name); quite strange.
From their official site: “You can never pin down The Monochrome Set. They’re so difficult in many ways, yet easy to appreciate.
They’ve been together now …. since the dying days of punk, developing a music which oscillates between furtive seriousness and high enjoyment and tries to connect fantasy with the world. Label them and their music at your peril. Because of the Rough Trade alliance, brief enigmatic press coverage, shadowy pictures, the casualness of the group, their seemingly aloof airs and faces, and the apparent strictness of their live performances, the wrong impression of the group is being communicated. I’m not sure they are doing all they can to change this.” Support came from local heroes the Carpettes.
The band have recently reformed and have been playing concerts to renewed acclaim.