Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Nico, Eno: Rainbow Theatre, London

Ayers puts the A in ACNE

KEVIN AYERS and young Brian Eno possess a certain je ne sais quoi which at times makes them two of the most interesting performers in contemporary European rock. And as such, their penchant of presenting most everything they do with just the correct degree of laconic humour rescued this highly publicised coming together of the demi-Gods of Chelsea chic and the Warholian twilight zone from quickly degenerating into a Mandrax-fed Turkey.

The performers: looking like a hybrid child of an Apache dancer and Max Wall, the enigmatic Eno posed — occasionally with left hand on hip or on one foot — sent electronic pulses and duck calls into deep space and crooned quite deliciously on ‘Baby’s On Fire’ no less than twice.

With sterling support from a masked Ayers, the new improved Ollie Halsall (guitar), Archie Leggett (bass), Eddie Sparrow and Robert Wyatt (drums) and keyboardist Rabbit (who wore a pained expression of “how the hell am I supposed to get funky on this”), ex-Velveteen John Cale scraped away vigorously on viola, tickled the ivories, warbled ‘Buffalo Ballet’ and ‘Gun’ and then with the assistance of three young damsels got into distress with a downer arrangement of what was supposedly ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ — must have been singing about that run down rooming house on 42nd Street over the massage parlour!

Leaving the listener suitably disturbed, Cale handed over the stage to the Marlene Dietrich of Max’s Kansas City — the classically beautiful Nico, who though still in extremely “good” voice only added to the atmosphere of impending doom that saturated the Rainbow by pedaling her harmonium and droning out monotone eulogies to hamstrung heroes. First Adolf the H’s ‘Deutschland Uber Alles’ (which Nico referred to as “a harmless little song”!) and then concluded with Jimbo Morrison’s Oedipus Rex anthem ‘The End’. She didn’t return for an encore. All that was needed was the in articulo mortis manifestation of Lou Reed to stumble on and perform one of his moribund mambos to up the manic depression.

Thankfully, Belle Ayers was in extremely good humour and in no time at all his droll stance and ragamuffin good looks had nearly every chick in the audience drooling for a piece of his ass. I kid you not, for at the after-gig drink-up you could sense the tension with every woman for herself and all after Ayers. But less of these disclosures.

Drawing heavily from his new album The Confessions Of Dr. Dream, the one-time Soft Machinist took his time to demonstrate what a highly original and imaginative artisan he is. His voice is elegantly dissipated which only helps to enhance his lyrics which are crammed full of cynicism and flippant black comedy. When set to what can best be described as thé-danse melodies, it only adds to his creme-de menthe mystique.

With the overtly adventurous Ollie Halsall and the not-so-tubular-but-ever-so-nervous Mike Oldfield trading lead guitar chores, Ayers’ material benefited from the shift of emphasis both players produced when stepping to the fore. Halsall on ‘Shout In A Bucket’ and Oldfield on ‘I Didn’t Feel Lonely Til I Thought Of You’ and ‘Dr. Dream’ (I hope I got it right).

To his credit, being in such distinguished company didn’t in any way inhibit Kevin Ayers, with the results that he came away with most of the plaudits. In retrospect, despite the melancholia that shrouded the first half of the concert, it was just an excuse for some pretty harmless musical fun and games.

© Roy CarrNew Musical Express, 8 June 1974

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