Patti Smith & John Cale


Meltdown & the Royal Festival Hall, London.




Reviewed by Guy Salvador 2005

This gig is the penultimate night of this years "Meltdown" at the Royal Festival Hall, which this year featured in my opinion one of the worlds best protest artists Patti Smith. Every night of the "Meltdown" week looked great with appearances from Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine & Television, Eels, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Yoko Ono, Sinead O'Connor, Tori Amos, Beth Orton, Kristin Hersh, Marianne Faithfull, Billy Bragg & many others. Unfortunately I had to pick only one of the nights and this one looked best to me. The night was dedicated to the performance of Patti’s first album, Horses (1975). Apparently, the first time it had been performed in its entirety. It is an album I have loved for many years & having caught Patti at her gig at Cardiff Coal Exchange last year I had a good idea of how good the show would be. Also an added big time bonus was our own, Aberdare boy, John Cale, providing the support for the gig. Incidentally, John Cale produced the "Horses" album.

Timed this one just right as about 5 minutes after taking our seats the lights dimmed & the musicians took the stage. John Cale seated to the right of the stage at his piano. The low tones of a synthesizer started to fill the hall, followed by the first lines of "The Jeweller", a genius poem read in almost chapel recitation style with Cales superb valley tinged speaking voice, not unlike Richard Burton, having real impact in this style venue. Anyone that is familiar with this piece will understand the hold it had on the audience as the strange story unravels itself. I will not attempt to describe the story; I just recommend you have a listen to it, if any of you work out what it is all about, answers to me on a postcard please! The set continued along with the superb Flea (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) guesting on bass. The music was one of the finest experimental / avant garde rock sets I have ever had the pleasure to see or hear. I went out & bought three Cale albums the day after! So, a recommendation from me to catch John Cale live if you get the chance as at 61 years of age, he is still as vital & fresh as all those years ago when he featured in the magnificent Velvet Underground.

Something for Patti Smith to follow……. This was never going to be a problem for her as she is held in almost godlike ideal by some of her fans with tickets for this show exceeding £150 each on E Bay. It is incredible that an album recorded thirty years ago can still be held in such esteem, but with tracks such as Gloria, Birdland, Free Money (covered by Penetration in 1979) Break it up etc. There is no surprise in this. Patti’s band, original guitarist Lenny Kaye and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, bassist/ pianist Tony Shanahan are as they were last year in Cardiff, top drawer, with Flea guesting on some tracks again. Have also got to mention that a certain Mr Verlaine was tucked away sitting in a corner of the stage happily trying to tune his guitar again through the whole set. Anyone who read my earlier Television review will understand what I mean. Luckily he was turned down tonight! Patti doesn’t hesitate in any opportunity to duel with the audience with her New York candour & wit a good match for any comments thrown her way, everyone loves her really anyway so she can’t lose. She even took the time to dress in the same gear she wore on the "Horses" album cover, telling us a five minute story about her new, old boots she had on, along with lecture for us all on why we should look after our teeth. I seem to remember Patti’s were particularly grim years ago. The set finished with a glorious, shambolic rendition of "My Generation" with all but John Cale (disappointingly) appearing back on stage to join in the chaos. A great way for a great artist & true poet to end a fantastic night. Nice one!


Guy Salvador 2005



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