John Cale and Band
Wednesday, January 20 2009
Hobart Town Hall
By Janet Upcher
Hobart’s sedate Town Hall was never so animated as on Wednesday evening, January 20, when John Cale – legendary classical and rock musician – and his band comprising guitar, percussion and bass, galvanised a capacity audience with a stunning performance.
Cale’s musicianship and virtuosity shone more brilliantly with every number and just as impressive were his energy and passion. Unlike many ageing former rock stars, he made no attempt at a trendy youthful image: he didn’t need to. Quite simply, John Cale is timeless, ageless and oh-so assured. The technical competence and genius of his accompanying musicians reflects the exacting nature of their maestro. The electronic acoustic effects produced powerful volume and, mostly, a good balance,although occasionally over-amplified.
Tentative for the first few minutes, the show subsequently never lost pace, with Cale moving seamlessly from piano to keyboard, from acoustic to electric guitar, all the while proving his amazing versatility, changing tempo and mood with each piece. His extensive vocal range sometimes evoked Leonard Cohen, sometimes Neil Young and beneath it all was the resonance of his Welsh voice and the backing of a great band.
For ninety minutes, they created an uninterrupted musical feast, entertaining fans aged from 17 to 70, all devotees of Cale’s unique brand of experimentation and innovation. From favourites like ‘Dying on the Vine’, ‘Style It Takes’, and the dreamy mood of ‘Buffalo Ballet’, he ventured into more surreal nightmarish distortions in ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, before culminating in Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, bringing cheers from the audience. Even this rather popularised piece seemed re-invented by Cale’s voice, enhanced by a great instrumental arrangement. After his exit, the entire audience stood clapping, clamouring for more – the reward was a stirring encore: ‘Paris 1919’.
After four decades of creativity across many genres, maybe the only predictable thing about John Cale is that he will never grow stale.