by / March 9th, 2010 /

John Cale & The Heritage Orchestra – The Royal Festival Hall, London

While he may have started out as one of the founding fathers of trashy art house rock, it’s with gentle reverence that John Cale arrives this evening, accompanied by the Heritage Orchestra to perform in full the legendary, Paris 1919.

For a while it appears that Cale might have missed the tube to get down here, as he makes the audience wait in anticipation, eventually strolling on stage dressed in a blazer and tie looking younger than his 68 years. After the first bar of ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ it’s clear that the old man can still sing.

There is no need for audience banter or any anecdotes this evening, with Cale churning out the whole of Paris 1919 in its entirety for what seems like a blink of an eyelid.

Every note is pitch perfect, and the backing strings by the magnificent Heritage Orchestra, only serves to heighten the arrangements on songs such as: ‘Paris 1919’ and ‘Graham Greene’.

Cale’s voice has a haunting melancholy quality to it that seems to echo through the auditorium tonight, with much of his lyrics as relevant today as they ever were, particularly on the poignant tune ‘Hanky Panky Nohow’ where he sings: ‘Nothing frightens me more than religion at my door.’

There is a 10-minute interval after the last note of Paris 1919 is played and then Cale comes back on for a bit of the avant garde, and the rest.

He treats us to a medley of ‘Femme Fatale / The Gift’, reminding us of the true greatness of The Velvet Underground, finally finishing with a very strange version of Elvis’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and a musical version of the Dylan Thomas’s poem ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.’

He leaves with a polite wave saying ‘I hope you guys had as much fun as we did’- the standing ovation at the end, for one of rock n roll’s true heroes- confirms they did.

Photo from Flickr by RoEndoftheroad.