John Cale to Perform at Hopscotch 2013
Submitted on Feb 15, 2013
How many masterpieces constitute enough masterpieces for any one person?
While surveying the career of Velvet Underground cofounder, brilliant singer-songwriter, relentless experimenter and legendary producer John Cale, that’s a recurring question. There are, of course, those first two albums from the Velvets, a band whose art-rock explorations keyed almost entirely upon the radiant groan of Cale’s viola. Before that, though, there were Cale’s explorations with minimalist pioneer La Monte Young, who Cale began collaborating with via an introduction from John Cage. A 2005 box set, New York in the 1960s, collected Cale’s brilliant sound experiments from the time, confirming his reputation as a musician long interested in creating at art’s bleeding edge.
That helps explain his multiple roles after leaving The Velvet Underground in 1968: He mentored and composed with Nico, produced the classic debuts of both The Stooges and The Modern Lovers, collaborated with Nick Drake, and helmed projects by Patti Smith and Sham 69 alike. In 1971, he released Church of Anthrax, an exquisitely strange gem made with composer Terry Riley.
But those are the footnotes, and during the last four decades, Cale has amassed a solo discography of extreme risks and thrilling successes. His 1973 record, Paris 1919, is an austere classic, its folk-rock roots turned to glory by some of the best orchestral arrangements in rock ’n’ roll history. His subsequent trilogy for Island Records—Fear, Slow Dazzle and Helen of Troy—burned bright and anxious, harnessing the skills of Brian Eno, Phil Collins, Richard Thompson and Phil Manzanera into white-hot paroxysms. In the last decade, he’s issued another string of fearlessly exploratory records, including 2003’s terrific Lemon Jelly-produced HoboSapiens and last year’s Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood, which called on Danger Mouse for help.
Cale is not one to spend time looking back on the past, to broadcast himself as an icon. But last month, the Los Angeles resident returned to New York for a three-night stand at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He visited 56 Ludlow St., the humble apartment where the Welshman launched his rock career, telling a reporter “there was nothing velvet about the underground world we were living in.” The subsequent concerts, which included a full performance of Paris 1919, received rave reviews. According to The Wall Street Journal, Cale “showed repeatedly how he and Nico anticipated the marriage of rock and electronic instrumentation” and that he was “in strong voice, his tones true, his phrasing meticulous.”
In September, Cale—“a legend in his spare time,” according to Pitchfork Media—will play Raleigh for the first time in at least a decade, perhaps ever. He will headline Memorial Auditorium, the historic jewel at the end of North Carolina’s Main Street. Expect a rock show, ignited, as Cale’s career has always been, by the thrilling possibility of new music.