John Cale performed on U.S. network television for the first time in 10 years last night (January 10), playing a double-header set for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The founding member of the Velvet Underground brought along an eight-piece backing band (featuring the War on Drugs’ Robbie Bennett and current Best New Artist-honoree Nightlands) to spookily shuffle through “I Wanna Talk 2 U,” off his most recent solo album, last year’s Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood.
The 70-year-old Cale — still young enough for pink-streaked hair, apparently — serves as ringleader for the keyboard pop horror show. His potent vocals cut through the swirling organ and haunting echoes of the three backup singers behind him, before morphing into ghoulish harmonizing for the song’s capper. As an extra “little goodie,” Cale offered a live rendition of “Venus in Furs,” the VU’s still-striking ode to S&M. The Welsh multi-instrumentalist picks up his viola for the nearly half-century-old track, and sings with exactly the kind of all-consuming authority a living legend should.