In 2016, John Cale took to the stage in Paris for a special remembrance of the seminal The Velvet Underground & Nico which was, at the time, turning 50. Cale was given a help in hand from some acclaimed guests including The Libertines’ Peter Doherty and Carl Barât.
Cale performed his former band’s 1967 record in an eclectic random order rather than start to finish as you might expect, but when did he ever do what you would expect? The Carmarthen native also treated the Parisian crowd to some tracks from the iconic White Light/White Heat at the Philharmonie de Paris.
It wasn’t just The Libertines’ Pete Doherty and Carl Barât who joined Cale on the April evening with Animal Collective, Mark Lanegan, Etienne Daho, Lou Doillon, Lemon Jelly’s Nick Franglen and Saul Williams all answering The Velvet Underground man’s call and making an appearance.
The evening was to celebrate album’s upcoming 50th anniversary with the Philharmonie also hosting a Velvet Underground exhibition. The album was famously not only a commercial financial failure but it was also remarkably shunned by critics upon release this, admittedly, partly down to the album’s content of sexual promiscuity and drug use. The lyrical content led to its almost instantaneous ban from various record stores, many radio stations refused to play it, and magazines refused to carry advertisements for it.
Following its reissue years later, with the whole world realising how much they have been sleeping on The Velvet Underground and Nico LP, the lyrical boundaries were changed forever, undoubtedly influencing countless generations of artists in the years that followed. The album, quite rightly, is in the conversation for the most important record of all time.
Reflecting on the record in 1982, Brian Eno managed to perfectly sum up the impact of the album: “I was talking to Lou Reed the other day and he said that the first Velvet Underground record sold 30,000 copies in the first five years. The sales have picked up in the past few years, but I mean, that record was such an important record for so many people. I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”
During the 50th anniversary show in Paris, the record still stood the test of time and all the better for the assistance of Doherty and Barât who had immediate chemistry with Cale. The likely lads joined the Welshman for renditions of ‘European Son’, ‘White Light/White Heat’ but it was their final appearance of the night for ‘Run, Run, Run’ which was the most spectacular.
Check out footage from the Parisian night, below.