Monday, January 30, 2006

The Velvet Underground Live MCMXCIII

While The Velvet Underground might not have been a band that was able to boast of much radio airplay or massive album sales, they are nonetheless known as one of the most seminal and influential acts in rock history. Referencing the aforementioned album sales, the comment was occasionally made that though they didn't sell huge numbers of records, almost everyone that owned one was compelled to start their own band and create their own music.

The group didn't stay together terribly long. They started out in 1965 with a demo that never amounted to much but played clubs until one Andy Warhol became their manager. He suggested that the German-born Nico join the group, and Warhol's reputation helped The Velvet Underground gain in stature.

For those unfamiliar with the group, the best-known members are Lou Reed and John Cale, with Sterling Morrison on guitar and Maureen "Mo" Tucker as the innovative percussionist. The band with through several iterations over the years, but essentially came apart for good in 1970 when Reed decided to depart.

Velvet Underground Live MCMXCIII is the result of a reunion tour that took place in 1993. Of course, even this tour didn't last long. Despite plans to tour the U.S. with U2, the band once again broke up before that could happen and this DVD is a remnant of their final time together. In 1995, Morrison would die of cancer, and Reed and Cale would reunite one final time for a concert at their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

As for the DVD itself, it feels simultaneously intimate and huge. The songs performed include Pale Blue Eyes, Sweet Jane, Femme Fatale, Heroin, Hey Mr. Rain, and I'm Sticking With You, where Mo Tucker lends her sweet, almost childlike voice to the lead vocals. The Velvets put on a magnificent show, full of energy and excitement. It's a thrill to watch Cale in all his multi-faceted talent. One minute he's playing the bass guitar, the next he's switched over to keyboards, and then he's playing the Viola.

For aficionados of the band, additional songs include Venus in Furs, White Light/White Heat, Beginning to See the Light, Some Kinda Love, I Heard Her Call My Name, I'll Be Your Mirror, Rock 'n' Roll, I'm Waiting for the Man, and a new song, Coyote. Of all the songs, my particular favorites were Hey Mr. Rain, White Light/White Heat and I'm Waiting for the Man.


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