The Argus: Brighton Festival ThumbExperimental sounds were coming from the speakers. Like you’d accidentally plugged a food mixer into the hi-fi. Then the lights dimmed and on stage came John Cale, bona fide legend and co-leader until 1968 of the Velvet Underground.

Playing keyboards, he and his band launched into a noisy instrumental intro. For a moment it seemed like heaven.

But expectation can lead to disappointment.

The noise died down and it became clear that Cale was in reflective mood, a universe away from the troubling raucousness of the Velvets’ defining track Sister Ray.

A succession of sad songs of journeys and loss, such as Captain Hook and Look Horizon, followed. This was, perhaps, Cale addressing the enigmatic programme of the concert, Émigré Lost And Found.

But while there were beautiful moments, the mournful procession started to suck life from the hall.

Cale brought on a string quartet but that didn’t plug us back into the mains. And while his setting of the Dylan Thomas poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night was perkier, it seemed incongruously so.

But then he strapped on an acoustic guitar and the temperature shot up. Dancing Undercover and Satellite Walk rocked and Letter From Abroad was angry and nihilistic.

Suddenly a fire was lit beneath the band and they provided demonic, discordant guitar workouts.

At one point someone shouted out, “Cale, you’re a genius!” Well, after a sombre start he proved he can still make a fearsome sound. At one year off 70, that’s genius of a sort.