John Cale honors his late producer and mentor by helping close the Art Institute’s Warhol exhibit | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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John Cale honors his late producer and mentor by helping close the Art Institute’s Warhol exhibit



Avant-rock elder statesman John Cale hasn’t played in Chicago in years, so this show is a hell of an occasion. One of two surviving members of the original Velvet Underground, the Welsh-born musician has had a career spanning more than five decades, and while he’s slowed down his recorded output since reaching his late 70s, he hasn’t lost any momentum as a musician. In 2009 he launched a series of concerts to commemorate his landmark 1973 solo album, Paris 1919, and in 2011 he returned to his homeland to host a documentary about drug addiction titled Heroin, Wales, and Me. Then in 2016, still reeling from the 2013 loss of his beloved frenemy Lou Reed, he created a song-for-song remake of his stunningly bleak 1982 record, Music for a New Society, transforming its naked, sparse arrangements into a full-blast, surround-sound-quality electronic-and-industrial rage against the dying of the light; it’s called M:FANS, and it comes packaged with a reissue of the original. Cale also grudgingly agreed to indulge nostalgia by performing three concerts celebrating the 50th anniversary of 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico. He may not like looking back—on 1985’s “Dying on the Vine,” he sings, “I’ve been chasing ghosts and I don’t like it”—but he does have a gift for memorializing. Thankfully, he’s equally good at innovating and exploring. In 2012 he made a whimsical album titled Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood in collaboration with Danger Mouse, and he more recently worked with film director and architect Liam Young to parlay his background in drone music into Loop 60Hz, a playful piece of performance art about modern warfare: Cale provided music, while Young flew his handmade Drone Orchestra overhead. This concert is part of the closing of the Art Institute’s Andy Warhol exhibition, an occasion that invokes the shadow of Cale’s last formal studio collaboration with Reed, the 1990 Warhol tribute Songs for Drella—their producer and mentor had died in 1987. Cale will play with a full band and make use of projections.   v

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