Sometimes you just have to be there. You have to get along. To see the legend. Someone that has meant a lot to you – their music, their place in it, and in your life as a result. It doesn’t have to be a mind-blowing gig to make an impact; the real impact is when the gig is announced, getting there and seeing it is simply the part of the equation you must complete. The gig is good. Good-enough. The fact it even happened is the magic. Does that make sense at all? I sure hope so – because that’s how I felt about seeing John Cale.
Thinking back on it now – it was a decade ago, just over, it was one of the first ever times I travelled purely to see a show. In fact – technically – it was the first trip just for a gig. I left work in the afternoon early, flew up to arrive around 5pm. Gig was on by 8. Home to my mate’s flat after, a couple of beers only; a brief chat about it. And then hit the hay. Up at 7am to make the airport. So that was the sole purpose for the trip. To see John Cale.
And it was important.
I never got to see Lou Reed. I never saw The Velvet Underground, nor any other member from it in any guise.
And though Cale had played New Zealand (in the 1980s) I did not expect he would return.
I can remember my heart in my mouth hearing the news. The thought that I might get to see it.
And then I did. I booked a ticket, and a flight. And I was off.
I didn’t review it. Didn’t really write about it in any capacity. I was a music-reviewer, I had a daily blog too by that point (though just brand new to it) but it was nice to settle back in to just being a fan. Which is probably why I am calling this (one of )The Best Gig(s) Ever, when at the time I remember being disappointed at all the great songs I didn’t hear…
But that’s because I love John Cale’s solo career and his influence as a producer and of course his contribution to the VU.
But he did play his cover of Heartbreak Hotel, that was the set-opener. And the closing encore, one single song, was The Velvet Underground’s Venus In Furs. And I thought I was going to choke. (Fitting, huh?) It was so intense, so powerful, so – so – good.
We returned home after the show. Me and one of my best mates and his then-girlfriend (now-wife). She was a huge Cale/VU fan. I was too. My mate wasn’t – so he was just along for the ride (in fact he was the driver). He didn’t care for it either way. Couldn’t really see what the fuss was nor why we cared. But we did care. We cared a lot. We had faith, no more or less than previously. We were fans. We were there. We got to be there. And that’s what it meant. That’s why it meant so much.
Some of Cale’s material from the early/mid 00s was very strong (just have recent albums have been too). So it was certainly not a case of churning out filler. It was a pretty great set. But I’d always have wanted more.
Now I realise how lucky I was just to get there. Just to see it.
And we were so close. Right up the front. Just standing there. In awe. The only time I’ve felt that way about a gig – that whole same feeling of just knowing it was important to be there regardless of the results was seeing B.B. King.
Sometimes the best gig ever is the one you get to because you know you’d be gutted if you didn’t.
I got to see John Cale. And that (still) means a lot to me.
This started as a series on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook Page