Tag Archives: Live music

Review: John Cale presents The Velvet Underground and Nico, at Liverpool Sound City (26th May 2017)

30 May

Velvets John Cale

Of all the revered groups of the ‘60s, none probably deserve the accolade of most influential group like The Velvet Underground. An east coast contrast to the (superficially) loved up Summer of Love, mainly concentrated on the sunny west coast, The Velvets were a very uncommercial consideration in 1967. But, years later, Brian Eno famously quipped that although their debut album had only sold 30, 000 copies, every one of those people formed their own band.

Fast forward fifty years, and the band’s most famous and successful member is no longer with us. Lou Reed’s death, and that of Sterling Morrison and chanteuse Nico, leaves only founding member John Cale and drummer Mo Tucker. Not one to get overly nostalgic, Cale felt an overwhelming urge to pay recognition to The Velvet’s legacy and fans by celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of The Velvet Underground and Nico, which leads us to this first of two celebratory concerts (the second to take place, quite naturally, in New York).

My first reaction to the music was how strange it was to hear it at what was essentially a stadium gig. The album’s dark and insular themes are perhaps best suited to a more intimate environment, most likely an indoor one, so hearing The Velvet’s music in a stadium setting was a surprise to the senses, but not a completely unwelcome or unsuccessful one.



Taking place on the first night of Liverpool’s annual Sound City urban festival, Cale’s performance took place in a post-industrial wasteland not entirely in tune with The Velvet’s nilisitic and bleak New York origins, but not entirely at odds with it either. The dead pan cool of the band’s hey day was reinforced through a selection of images projected onto the huge screens at either side of the stage. What didn’t serve the music as well were a less than dominant sound system and a rosta of supporting players who were of variable quality. Cale started proceedings with a decent performance of ‘Waiting for the man’, although he would struggle to replicate Reed’s scornful vocals throughout, but would return to the microphone at several points in the concert. In-between, however, appeared a mixture of the very good to the mediocre. The Kills’ Alison Mossheart in memorable leather clad rock chick glory, contrasted with my favourite Velvet’s song ‘All tomorrow’s Parties’ , unfortunately diluted by Lias Saoudi from The Fat White Family. Far better when Saoudi tackled the glorious cacophony that is ‘Heroin’, with a lot more verve, and Nadije Shah delivered a pleasing ‘Femme Fatale’. None of the album’s songs were played in original order, but mixed up with other Velvets tracks. I didn’t mind this; any pretence to presenting these songs as some first heard them in 1967 or actually on disc, was quickly abandoned. That was wise; rather than a note by note reproduction, this was more of a celebration of that music’s essence, in a setting unfamiliar to the ‘60s Factory crowd.

The concert ended with an epic version of ‘Sister Ray’, where the numerous guests appeared to surrender to the music and offer their best. Cale was present throughout, an obvious talent and occasionally eager to show off his viola skills. Cutting a stylish and relatively youthful looking figure, despite his white hair, Cale remains the only original Velvets band member to remain musically active. While this might not be his finest hour, it was still an engrossing presentation of a songbook that continues to influence and inspire. While Cale is not a man who usually looks back with obvious nostalgia, and despite any weaknesses in the presentation, I was very glad he had made an exception.


From Rolling Stone Magazine:


John Cale will also perform The Velvet Underground and Nico with The Wordless Music Orchestra, at The Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City, on November 16th and 17th.


Photograph used with respect from Liverpool ECHO site.


Surviving Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia!

26 Oct
Jane Weaver

Jane Weaver at Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia.

A busy month away from this blog, and a few things to tell, but I’ll start with a follow up to the last post. Yes, just incase you were in any doubt, I survived the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia. I’m pretty sure I can’t remember half of it and not because I was drunk, or otherwise. It all blended into one glorious noise and social whirl, although I do vividly remember live sets from JC Satan and Jane Weaver, who were exceptionally good. So, for all round good times and a real feeling of musical camaraderie, I heartily recommend checking out next year’s event (obviously if psychedelic music is your thing). Taking place in the city’s off beat Camp and Furnace district (think renovated warehouses), it was one of the best urban festivals I’ve been to! As well as the various stages, they even have numerous food stalls in operation, an upstairs dance floor and a vinyl shop (courtesy of Manchester’s Piccadilly Records).


Anyway, enough from me, I clearly haven’t retained enough information! Here is some dynamic footage instead:

Ex-Hex at Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 12th February 2015.

16 Feb

Ex-hexEx-Hex are the sound of pop and rock’s rich electric guitar wielding past, full of emotive memories, combined with something new. I’m not actually sure what that ‘something’ is, but Ex-Hex do not sound like an uninspired retread of former glories. Their strong resemblance to the sound of early to mid ’70s glam and punk make it easy to imagine them on the stage at CBGBs, but their Runaways-esque sound and image is backed up by their own identity, at the same time assured, deft, merrily irreverent and genuinely fun. All the tunes have been lovingly crafted within an inch of their lives, which also means any live diversions improve rather than destroy their brilliant punk-pop racket. Also, despite their more mature age, Ex-Hex can make you feel like a teenager again, and in this context, that’s a marvellous thing (even the songs concern themselves with such teen girl tribulations as bad boyfriends, nights out and getting even).

In the scruffy bowels of the Soup Kitchen bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, Ex-Hex continue the UK leg of their current tour. It’s the kind of venue their infectious noise suits down to the ground. After the polite but competent indie pop of support band Princess (who caused some very amusing audience communication confusion: “What’s that last one called?”…”What’s your name?”…”What’s my name?”…”No, that’s the name of the track”).  I liked them, but I can’t say too much more as I only saw the end of their set. Following Princess, there’s a bit of wait for Ex-Hex to take to the stage. Despite Timony graciously mentioning that so many bands have come from Manchester, I’m not sure this will go down as their personal favourite venue in the tour. I’ve heard they love them up in Glasgow, and to be fair, this crowd are a bit subdued on a Thursday night (the weekend hasn’t really started yet). Actually, while we’re on the subject of geography, the band have got me re-thinking what I thought I knew about the DC music scene, which admittedly wasn’t much. On their own merit Ex-Hex are a fairly tight and capable outfit, with a classic sound, notable stage presence and an obvious musical talent.

Lead vocalist and guitarist Mary Timony is a veteran of previous bands such as Helium and the more recent White Flag, and with new recruits Betsy Wright (bass) and Laura Harris (drums) has formed a trio that know the power of a good riff and a decent chorus. Songs like “Don’t Wanna Lose”, “Waterfall” and “The Beast” echo with the spirit of a glam disco circa 1973 (and a cover of The Sweet’s “Fox on the run” just enhances this), but these ladies are not slaves to the history book, with something fresh and cheerfully brash being wrung from these well established instruments, which feature less and less on our current top ten singles, unless from worthy but dull behemoths like Coldplay. But with Ex-Hex the fun is back in rock n’ roll and they might well be my favourite new band. This is classic garage pop rock that occasionally knows how to rock hard without losing its tune, and while this might have originally been Timony’s baby, Wright certainly cuts a captivating figure, full of sass and confidence. But let’s be clear, Ex-Hex really come across as a trio democracy, all for one and one for all.
A guitar versus bass face-off adds to the excitement with Timony and Wright like pigs in muck. They don’t just do this for a living; they love the bones of it. To make such a rock n’ roll cliché look fresh and riveting is a secret they’d best keep. Whatever it is, they keep you glued, even when in moments of raucous improvisation to their chord driven punk sound. The last gasps of the ’90s Riot Grrrl movement? Maybe, but most definitely an exciting all girl band. Out dated labels aren’t needed here.


The diverse crowd (old metal fans packed in with indie kids and hipsters and the odd folky looking stray) offered a lot of wolf whistles and loud applause in response to the music, and nobody looked unimpressed. Sure, we’d heard it done a million times before, but with a band like Ex-Hex taking a few notes from that aforementioned history book of rock riffs, I feel sure that they’ll be substantially adding to that book themselves soon. Plus I left the gig with a big smile on my face and a new record under my arm, and you can’t argue with that sort of evidence.

(As a postscript I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to the really nice merchandising girl, who had put a new copy of ‘Rips’ to one side for me. She even asked if I had enough time to catch my train. I never know if Americans have an idea of distance and time on our island nation, but if you’re reading this, it was only a twelve minute sprint, and yes, I made it!)

Ex-Hex’s debut album ‘Rips’ is out now on Merge records.

Links below to some great Youtube clips from Stepunker: