The Velvet Underground
Velvet Redux Live MCMXCIII
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2006, Volume 13, #2
Written by John Metzger
It took the death of Andy Warhol, principal accelerant for The Velvet Undergroundís career, to reunite Lou Reed with John Cale. In the wake of Caleís unceremonious ouster from the band in 1968, the duo spent the next 20 years casting stones at one another. Nevertheless, they managed to set aside their differences in order to eulogize their departed friend in the wondrously strange, mini-musical Songs for Drella, which, in turn, paved the way for the reformation in 1993 of the original rendition of The Velvet Underground. Alas, the group barely survived a European tour that included several dates as the support act for U2 ó which, coincidentally, had been paying homage to Reed throughout its international jaunt in support of Achtung Baby ó and as a result, American audiences were left to ponder what might have been.
Recorded over the course of three nights at LíOlympia Theatre in Paris, France, Velvet Redux Live MCMXCIII ó which already has been issued as single- and double-CD sets as well as a VHS video and now is making its debut on DVD ó offers a glimpse at both the promise and the frustration that the enthusiastic Parisian fans experienced. Although The Velvet Underground did manage to unearth obscurities such as Hey Mr. Rain and the raggedly sung Iím Sticking with You ó the ensemble largely stuck to its "hits," and it played them remarkably straight. Cale, stepping in for Nico, stiffly tackled the gentle Femme Fatale; the dark, churning swirl of Venus in Furs was tempered by the bandís perfunctory delivery; Sweet Jane was given all the urgency of an afterthought; and only the taut, forceful rhythmic propulsion supplied by Moe Tucker kept songs like Iím Beginning to See the Light and White Light/White Heat from falling flat.
Even so, Velvet Redux Live MCMXCIII has its moments: An anxious Iím Waiting for the Man was bound to Heroinís moody dichotomy, which built to fevered chaos before lethally falling into a peaceful slumber. Likewise, Caleís avant-garde piano accompaniment lifted Some Kinda Love, while Hey Mr. Rain was stretched into a 15-minute blast of beautifully disorienting discordance that pitted the frayed-wire frenzy of Caleís viola against the jagged lightning of Reedís guitar. It was here that the members of The Velvet Underground truly engaged one another and began to tap into the combustible fury of their past. Unfortunately, these highlights are the exception rather than the rule, and as a result, there isnít enough on Velvet Redux Live MCMXCIII to make it appeal to anyone other than the collectiveís diehard fans. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box