Founding Velvet Underground member John Cale released his fantastic first solo album in a decade, Mercy, in January, and on Saturday (8/19) he played what was — according to the people who introduced him — his first NYC show in six years. It was a free show in Prospect Park, part of BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival‘s 2023 season, and people showed up in force for the 81-year-old legend (his daughter and grandkid included), filling every chair, sidewalk and grassy spot in the large outdoor space that also houses multiple bars, food options, and lots of (but not always enough) porta potties.
He and his fantastic 3-piece backing band played in front of a projection screen filled with trippy visuals that changed for each song, and which were also playing on the two screens on the sides of each stage (along with Celebrate Brooklyn’s usual sign language interpreters). John stuck mostly to keys, but switched to guitar for a few songs. The weather was perfect, John’s mellow croon was in fine form, and you could get lost in the psychedelic ambience of it all.
After an opening set of folk songs and funny banter from the great Tomberlin, John took the stage around 9pm to a standing ovation (there were a lot of chairs set up at the venue). His 90+ minute set pulled from across his catalog, including four songs from Mercy, his version of Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel,” 1974 Fear track “Barracuda” to close the show, and the very crowd-pleasing Velvet Underground hit “I’m Waiting for the Man” where he swapped out Lou Reed’s “Hey white boy” lyric with “Hey buddy.”
Check out the full setlist, attendee-taken video, and more pictures of the whole night by P Squared, below…
SETLIST: JOHN CALE @ BRIC CELEBRATE BROOKLYN! FESTIVAL, 8/19/2023
Jumbo in tha Modernworld
Moonstruck (Nico’s Song)
Rosegarden Funeral of Sores
I’m Waiting for the Man
Helen of Troy
Out Your Window
Half Past France
Hanky Panky Nohow