Levitation: John Cale, Black Angels

Velvet Underground in the house!

Not often does a dream manifest before one’s eyes, but it happened Saturday night at Stubb’s, where the Black Angels secured a performance from legendary Velvet Underground co-founder and avant-garde solo artist and producer John Cale, after whose VU standout “Black Angel’s Death Song” the band is named.

Black Angels (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

“We’re probably more excited than you are,” enthused Angels frontman Alex Maas after the Levitation founders’ set.

Following a strong showing from Portland spaghetti western rockers Federale, the Angels treated a sold-out amphitheater to a powerhouse performance of its reverb ‘n’ grunge drone rock. Mixing new songs in with crowd favorites like “Entrance Song” and “Manipulation,” the locals presented a tight, forceful set that indicates a palpable leap forward. Opening for their idol, the veteran ATX psych rockers truly rose to the occasion and then some.

John Cale (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

A good thing, too, as Cale and his three-piece band wasted no time in dominating the stage via a “Helen of Troy” that outdid the Angels for volume and distortion. The Welsh native apparently thought that wasn’t violent enough, so he grabbed the whammy bar on his Stratocaster and coaxed out the sounds of chaos for the even more gripping “Leaving It All Up to You.” Once he moved to his keyboard, the 77-year-old alternated between tunes every casual fan would know, and deep cuts for the hardcore.

“Fear is a Man’s Best Friend” and “Paris 1919” earned big cheers and even some singalongs, but “The Endless Plain of Fortune” and a drastically rearranged “Half Past France” received puzzled responses until the audience got fully swept along. The set-list ranged as far back as Cale’s 1970 debut Vintage Violence (“Ghost Story”) and as contemporary as 2005’s blackAcetate (“Wasteland”), ending with a pulverization of the Modern Lovers’ “Pablo Picasso” that required to two extra guitarists.

Following a quick walk-off, the Black Angels joined the Cale band to fulfill dream No. 2 – actually performing with him. Beat keeper Stephanie Bailey set up Maureen Tucker style, but the now 10-piece collaboration avoided the obvious Velvets cover (“Black Angel’s Death Song”) and instead bashed through 10 minutes of VU tornado “Sister Ray.”

“You’re still great, Austin!” exhorted Cale before quitting the stage for the final time.


“Helen of Troy”
“Leaving It All Up to You”
“The Endless Plain of Fortune”
“Hedda Gabler”
“Fear is a Man’s Best Friend”
“Half Past France”
“Ghost Story”
“Paris 1919”
“I’m Waiting For the Man”
“Pablo Picasso”

Encore (with the Black Angels):

“Sister Ray

John Cale, Black Angels

Saturday, Nov. 9, 5:30pm, Stubb's

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John Cale, Black Angels, Levitation 2019, Federale, Velvet Underground, Maureen Tucker, Stephanie Bailey, Alex Maas, Modern Lovers

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