John Cale Circus Live Review

Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Dirty-ass rock ‘n’ roll indeed…

Chris Jones 2007

Now approaching his mid-sixties, the original Welsh drone miserablist is still seemingly in the midst of his second wind as a vital artist. Or maybe it’s his third or fourth…Whatever, he’s on fire, and Circus proves it again. Drawn from last year’s tour with his new young band it works on two levels: as a handy overview of just about each aspect of his 40 year career, and as a simply great, visceral experience.

Bravely tackling (and re-tooling) not only his own, but also some Velvets’ classics, deftly mixed with gems from his last couple of albums, this is the sound of Cale enjoying himself. Beginning with the familiar, forbidden pleasures of “Venus In Furs” (he mauls “Femme Fatale” as well, in a spooky 21st century way), he wields his viola with aplomb, while his voice grows even more authorative with age - the cracks perfectly suiting Cale standards of yore such as "Buffalo Ballet" and “Hanky Panky Nohow”.

But that’s not to say that this is some kind of nostalgia-fest. Where possible, JC stretches the fabric of the oldies to give an added techno edge and also (you suspect) just plain mess with your head. "Gun" becomes virtually unrecognisable while again he turns in another harrowing reinvention of "Heartbreak Hotel". Detractors may point to the band’s tightness as verging on muso territory (especially the astounding guitar work) but frankly, with something as life-affirming as this it’s churlish to complain. Dirty-ass rock ‘n’ roll indeed…

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