Keystone 1977 [no label 2CD Torrent: 99160]
Live at Keystone, Palo Alto, California, Mar 6, 1977. Some minor glitches. VG+ to Ex- AUD stereo.

John Cale’s live peak of Sabotage was still a couple of years distant when he hit the road in 1977, touring a psychotic circus that reached its peak with the now-infamous chicken-beheading incident in Croydon that June.

But already the mood of his live performance was shifting, with the guttural instincts of Helen of Troy and the newly-recorded Animal Justice EP clearly outweighing the gentility of "Paris 1919," "Child’s Christmas" and "You Know More Than I Do," audience favorites that are dispensed with so early in the show that, by the time you hit the closing salvo, it seems astonishing that he ever sucked you in so sweetly.

"Leaving It Up To You," "Waiting For The Man," "Gun" and "Pablo Picasso" - side by side, they add up to one of the most dyspeptic poundings any simple rock show has ever meted out, but you can scarcely say you weren’t warned. "Hedda Gabbler" might be gentle, but it’s the seduction of the vampire that lights its allure, while the pop of "Darling I Need You" was never as innocuous as it seemed.

Cale himself is in fine form, introducing one song by calmly discussing its chord sequence, while his accent rolls across his lyrics as though every syllable needs to be strangled. And, if the band is a little more anonymous than either he or his songs deserve, then that only allows you to focus even harder on the main attraction.

The show ends by skipping onto a second disc for just two songs, the encore of "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Cable Hogue." But you have to get past "Pablo Picasso" to reach it, and the painter is taking no prisoners. That’s how dangerous this show is. - Dave Thompson

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October 19, 2007