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London Royal Festival Hall

It's a truly vintage performance, the yearning plaint of Cale's stony voice and the formidable range of his classical, avant-garde past coming to bear in a performance which touches as many bases a

London Royal Festival Hall

In and out of the underground, this spawn of Wales' Golden Valley has been an irascible chameleon and iconoclast. Sometimes his sonic explorations have relied on an overwrought theatricality - unloading a surfeit of sludge as he mined for the raw truths, triumphs and agonies of existence.

Not tonight, Josephine. Sober and dignified, his art is stripped to the bone. It's a truly vintage performance, the yearning plaint of Cale's stony voice and the formidable range of his classical, avant-garde past coming to bear in a performance which touches as many bases as the 54-year-old's chequered career. Underlying this seasoned maturity and defiant sense of reconciliation is a sense of rhythm and tradition which leads right back home.

He starts at the piano with the first of several musical adaptations of Dylan Thomas poems. As he proceeds through the lost haunted worlds of 'Buffalo Ballet' and 'The Chinese Envoy', the raw elegy of 'You Know More Than I Know', or the dazzling, turbulent voyage that is 'Ship Of Fools', there's a remarkable feeling of connectedness, of a lineage being both preserved and extended.

He sidesteps the Velvets' canon but 'If Your Friends Ever Let You Down' speaks poignantly of that blasted alliance. Perhaps 'Heartbreak Hotel', though, a tune he seems to have been chasing forever, parrying it down through the years, provides the finest example of Cale's mastery, locating an emotional devastation at its centre that would have made Elvis' quiff stand on edge.

And there is so much more - torment and paranoia, heartache and regret, surreal departures and valiant requiems.

Like his young(er) countrymen once said, there is gold in the soul - or something. Tonight Cale mines it all and it is that rarest of rare things - pure, unalloyed genius.

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