John Cale Liverpool Sound City 2017 review: Clarence Dock, Liverpool

John Cale at Liverpool Sound City

John Cale at Liverpool Sound City

John Cale and a host of guests revisited The Velvet Underground and Nico in Liverpool, Getintothis Jamie Bowman reflects on a real one off at Liverpool Sound City.

Fifty years have passed now since the Velvet Underground released their debut album.

For most of that time it’s been hard to imagine what rock music would be like if the band had never entered the studio.

In 1982, musician and producer Brian Eno famously stated that while the album initially only sold 30,000 copies, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.

Five decades on it’s hard to comprehend quite how we pay tribute to a band that have influenced everything that most of us hold dear.

From that original line up that entered a decrepit studio in Manhattan in 1966 only the drummer and the viola player remain with Lou Reed’s death in 2013 robbing us of the band’s front man and songwriter in a way that felt like a depressing but very final full stop.

Fair play then when it comes to John Cale. A Welsh-born polymath of quite incredible capabilities, Cale has entered his 75th year determined to celebrate the Velvet Underground’s legacy by performing a series of shows where artists influenced by the band’s incredible debut album get the chance to try on the sizeable shoes of Reed and German singer and model Nico.

Sound City stage times

The fact that this happens on the hottest day of the year and in an environment more suited to the stadium rock histrionics of the kind of bands who long rejected the Velvet’s underground cool only makes this second night of Liverpool’s beloved Sound City all the more bizarre.

Taking to the stage 30 minutes after the allotted time only makes the opening salvo of Waiting For The Man and White Light White Heat that much special as The KillsAlison Mosshart plays a blinder on backing vocals.

Of course the shock value of these songs being played in a stadium environment is hard to get over and if there was ever band whose natural home was the bedroom it’s the Velvets.

Punching the air to the key phrases of the Velvet’s back catalogue certainly feels odd but such is the ambition and dynamism of the Fat White Family’s Lias Saoudi it’s hard not to be caught up in the sheer spectacle of it all. Saoudi owns the stage whenever he steps on it and it’s no surprise that it’s his voice is the last sound we hear as Cale leads his squad in a dance-influenced Sister Ray to close.

Elsewhere Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys lends an electro vibe to European Son with Wild BeastsHayden Thorpe adding some surprising sensitivity to I’ll Be Your Mirror.

The real highlight though comes when Cale steps out from behind his keyboard and dons the electric viola for a simply breath-taking take on Venus in Furs. Avant garde points also go to Nadine Shah‘s stunning interpretation of Femme Fatale.

Quite how we appreciate the Velvets in a live environment remains a tricky proposition but tonight Cale pulled off something of a coup. Suck it and see haters.

Pictures by Getintothis Vicky Pea





  1. I don’t know what gig the writer was at but I found it a huge disappointment …..I love John Cale but I had to ask why he got himself mixed up with this nonsense . Playing velvets songs in front of an audience of stadium rockers is always going to be tricky but my main beef is that the venue simply did not fit the occasion . It’s been a steady decline from the days when Soundcity hosted interesting artists and bands in clubs and spaces around town to what they have now ……. a second rate festival, with less interesting artists (John Cale aside ), performing on a brownfield site out of the town. Overpriced food galore , nothing new there but you couldn’t even get a drink without queuing for half an hour . I wish the organisers would just go back to what they were doing at the start . You can’t help but think that the whole event has just become an overblown money making venture . Shame really and a missed opportunity for the city .

  2. Legends, eh? So, John Cale comes on 25 minutes late with an obsequious bunch of under-rehearsed karaoke singers and destroys virtually all the songs from a 50 year old album and the crowd, most of whom can’t see him or hear what’s going on, go fucking wild and join in the singalong “When I Put A Spike Into My Vein” line like it’s Hey Jude. Bizarre to say the least. Shit to be more accurate. I always felt Nico needed to do more yodeling in the middle of Femme Fatale, so good that was put right, and imagine if late-period UB40 had been around to play on Here She Comes Now… no need, we got that too. 15 minutes of Sister Ray should have been cacophonous, but instead, with the audience streaming out as if they knew there’d be no coming back from this, we had a bland Band Aid version that became irritating after just a couple of minutes, but just kept on going and going and going. Nice cups though. Legendary in fact.

  3. Your review is far too overly nice and I have no idea why. It was a bizarre show with questionable talent on stage. Overall entirely bizarre experience. The only song played to any standard was femme fatale. No patter with the audience, no introduction and I felt overall disconnected with what should have been a memorable, sensational and emotive experience. This review and last night’s performance gives absolutely no justice to any of those things. It was a 5/10 and you boys must know that…come on

  4. Was dreadful , gates opened at 6 , he didn’t come on until half nine . There was nowhere in the rubble to sit.
    When he came on there was no video link for those not at the front , none of the guests were untroduced , thousands left early – £50 a ticket ?!?!? #unsoundcity

  5. You were obviously at a different gig. One singer hadn’t learned his songs, the sound was abysmal, the venue was worse, the facilities were terrible and considering the Velvets will forever be assosciated with Warhol, the visuals were laughable. Would have benefitted from being able to see Cale via the screens but that wasn’t to be. A terrible wasted opportunity and a complete waste of 55 quid.

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