I love the 1994 Velvet Underground Reunion Concert. I love that it’s just these middle-aged musicians (Lou Reed,52 ; John Cale, 52; Sterling Morrison, 52; Maureen Tucker, 50) being mostly immobile on stage, playing these songs they wrote twenty years earlier, and I love that almost all of the songs sound better than the originals.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Nico’s voice. And the stripped-down haunting versions of the songs on the first album are great. But after a couple decades away from each other, Lou Reed and John Cale both seem to have accepted that songs can be a teeny bit more melodic. The backing vocals on “Femme Fatale” are a good example of this, because the original track is pretty atonal when the band chimes in. The original “Sweet Jane” is fine and all, but this one sounds way more mature and interesting. But you probably can’t go by me, because I think the Cowboy Junkies version is the best one available.
The Velvet Underground are one of my favorite bands in the world. I love that they’ve got a droning viola going through some of their best songs. I love that Mo Tucker is aggressively simplistic. I’m watching the 1994 concert DVD right now (it was released in 2006, which seems like kind of a long wait) and she really is just pounding away on an upturned bass drum with mallets a lot of the time. “Heroin” has amazing drumming, because it’s a song that purposely slows down and speeds up. It seems like more bands should be willing to do that occasionally, you know?