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John Cale/Michael J Sheehy
One is soon reminded that John Cale is as intelligent a lyricist as he is gifted a musician
Mark O'Sullivan, 05 Jul 2001
If Michael J. Sheehy is in any way daunted by the prospect of performing in front of the several hundred people it has taken to fill the newly-refurbished City Hall, he doesn’t show it. Indeed, he plays songs from Sweet Blue Gene and the forthcoming Ill Gotten Gains like an old pro; even a brand new song like ‘Teardrop’, performed for the first time tonight, already sounds like a standard.
When a dapper John Cale arrives on stage, it is hard to tell which might be jauntier, his smile or his bright red shoes. He kicks off at once with ‘Soul Motel’, then leads us through material from a career that now spans five decades. One is soon reminded that he is as intelligent a lyricist as he is gifted a musician. His introduction to ‘The Chinese Envoy’ informs us that it was inspired by a late story of Maupassant’s. “You’d be surprised at what comes galloping out of the darkness like furniture”, he sings, and he might well be referring to every track that follows.
Cale’s compositions range from the sublime, like ‘Ship Of Fools’, to the raucous; ‘Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead’ is a number he clearly relishes playing.
Much has been made of Cale’s talent for collaboration. In his introduction to ‘Cable Hogue’, co-written with Brian Eno, he offers a small insight into the process, informing us that the lyrics began with the plundering of a Spanish phrase book and finished sometime later with the tale of the espionage agent of the title.
Throughout the gig, Cale alternates between guitar and piano: during one outing on the grand, we are treated to the spectacle of a zealous fan at
the front leaping to his feet and dancing feverishly to the stately arpeggios. The same individual rushes the stage at the end, to hand his hero a card: for one wild moment, we
wonder if we are about to witness a rock’n’roll assassination. The rest of us are slightly more dignified in our display of approval, merely according the master a standing ovation that endures until he returns to treat us to an encore.
“Goodnight Cork”, he says at the end, evidently pleased with himself. “Leave a sample of your DNA at the door”. The silver-tongued devil.