The Velvet Underground: Velvet Redux MCMXCIII review by Tom Blain

I figure if The Velvet Underground can have a reunion tour (albeit a short one) then just about any band can. The term "underground" definitely fits the Velvets to a 'T'. They were never huge to the degree that the Beatles, Pink Floyd, or David Bowie were huge. They didn't turn over gold-plated albums year after year. In fact their album list is rather short (4 studio albums in ~3 years). But what they did do, was push the limits of rock and roll past radio friendly 'pop' and influence every other mold breaking band who followed. Anyone who considers themselves punk, avant-garde, experimental or psychadelic (just to name a few) shouldn't be taken seriously unless The Velvet Underground is one of their influences. They pushed the envelope lyrically and musically and as fast as they started (1967), they broke up (1970).

Finally, in 1993 the creative forces of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen "Moe" Tucker got together for a number of shows in Europe. The decision was made to record parts of the concerts and make a video... and its a good thing that decision was made because the band only lasted for about ten shows before breaking up. Now with guitarist Sterling Morrison passed on, a 2nd reunion tour is all but impossible.

The song list...

...is a fair representation of the band work, but at 85 minutes it leaves you wanting more. Personally I wanted them to go out with one of those 17 minute sprawling violin-solos clashing with a grinding guitar. No such luck. This is a band, freshly re-assembled (sans Nico) with one last hurrah left in the tank. Because they were so counter-culture and "out there" its amazing that they even got back together in the first place. They seem like the band that would lay a good thing to rest and not try to kick around independant, youth driven ideas while in their 50s (ahem...Rolling Stones). They were so damned cool that you would expect Reed and Cale to say "F.U." to the idea.

But alas not one of us is impervious to the mighty buck. The Velvets show their age at times and who can blame them? Most bands from that era that have done reunion tours lag quite a bit from the old days. Sometimes the lyrics are out of sync (I remember this on "Waiting for the Man" the most) for example. But what is really missing the most is that special energy that you feel when a band is working together to create something. You don't get that feeling here. Each member seems to be operating on his/her own little island; creating independantly from all other members. Probably a reflection upon the members themselves.

The great thing to come out of this DVD/recording is that it "is" live Velvet footage. If you scour Amazon and Ebay you will be lucky to find a decent, live recording of the band anywhere on DVD for less than your mortgage. Legitimately, this is all that's out there (for now) and in the meantime we should remain happy with what we got. I'm willing to look past the wrinkles, the lack of live show energy and experimentation (which I heard was awesome back in the day), and the painful look Cale and Reed's faces when that violin screams in agony during Heroin (a sound that, back in day, probably seemed like a great idea). Because beggars can't be chosers I'll accept what I have for now and hope there are better nuggets around the corner (i.e. check those Andy Warhol vaults for goodies!).




6 out of 10 Jackasses
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