JOHN CALE | Barbican, London

John Cale, whose Futurerespective is currently showing at the Barbican, is as experimental and hungry as ever. The co-founder of the Velvet Underground, also a prolific vocalist, instrumentalist, lyricist and music producer, remains fearlessly poetic, abrasive and enigmatic.

The stage is arranged like a triptych. Nestled stage right and left, the London Contemporary Orchestra and the House Gospel Choir. Upstage centre: guitar, drums, bass. Downstage and intimate: Cale, like God, seated at a keyboard connected to a cascade of cables and computers brazenly on show. On the back wall, glitching videos flicker and pulse to the beat of the songs.

Cale uses his collaborators to excess, but never tritely, and though his songs are wicked and sardonic, everything he does is anchored in truth. The result is a musical feast that sates and purges. The intensity of feeling ripples out into the audience with sometimes overwhelming energy, as gospel, ballad, rock, pop and experimental blend and grate hypnotically. Cale inflects his music with perfectly orchestrated imperfections (echoes, traces, and squeaks), playing with registers and intensities. A five minute guitar riff washes over the room with pulsating feverishness, Cate le Bon (whose mellifluous voice is a marvel) accompanies Cale in a brief ballad on the guitar, or an empowered invective is hurled against hatred.

Futurespective is a cornucopia that should delight connoisseurs and neophytes alike. Watching this performance is both a sexual and spiritual experience, where technology and the future are infused with new erotic life.

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