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Velvet Underground
Velvet Redux: Live MCMXCIII
Rhino Records

Well, it's been about 13 years in the making, and I'd have to say it's been well worth the wait. When the Velvet Underground re-united in 1993 for select opening dates on U2's European tour, it was an exciting moment. Not long after, the world received the Live MCMXCIII CD commemorating the three nights of live performances at the Paris Olympia. But until now, the world has had to wait for a live DVD of the performance to accompany the stellar CD release. That time has come.

It is amazing to experience this show with the visual aspect - the sights that accompany the sounds of these historic shows lend an air of power to the music that seemed to be slightly lacking on the CD releases. The DVD kicks off with Lou Reed warbling his way through an atonal and droning version of "Venus In Furs", he re-works the vocal melodies and seems to be having a good time playing with the arrangement. John Cale's violin work is as off-key and unsettling as it ever was in those early Velvet's recordings, which lends an air of authenticity to the performance. "White Light/ White Heat" is brilliantly performed, having much of the energy that the band surely possessed back in the late 60's when the song was recorded. "Beginning To See The Light" sees the band finally warmed up and playing together tightly before slipping into a brilliant version of the obscure "Some Kinda Love". And while John Cale is certainly no Nico, he does an admirable job taking lead vocals on a beautiful, jangling version of "Femme Fatale". The ubiquitous "Hey Mr. Rain" is a noisy break in the set, reminding at once how the Velvet's were truly one of the shaping forces of the rock and roll movement, and definitely had their hands in creating the post-psychedelic movement. Moe Tucker steps up for her trademark silly vocals on "I'm Sticking With You", while Lou Reed turns in some fine guitar work to stretch the ending into a noisy jam. On "I Heard Her Call My Name" the band is in top noise form, with searing guitar lines and the drumming that proves Moe Tucker had finally become a drummer in the truest sense, overcoming her early rudimentary skills. She rocks!

Sterling Morrison's guitar work is perfection on the glorious chiming track "I'll Be Your Mirror", which leads perfectly into a fucking brilliant version of the uber-classic "Rock 'N' Roll". This track finds the entire band in its best form - possibly ever - with Lou Reed belting out the lyrics and playing with melodies and extraneous words before Sterling Morrison breaks out the classic riffs played on his slick black Fender Jaguar. "Sweet Jane" maintains the kind of spirit that has made it such a well-known song, even more powerful in this live performance than it ever was on studio recordings. Cale plays some synthesized strings to lead into a rollicking and jumpy version of "I'm Waiting For The Man" before the band launches head-on into the gracefully ugly beauty of "Heroin". For over nine minutes the Velvets groove the drone of the classic, intertwining new pieces of melody, but keeping true to the feel and soul of the song. This is the moment when I really, really wish that I had been able to see this band live… Aching. A stretched version of "Pale Blue Eyes" comes next, with Lou picking out double stop licks on his Telecaster and recreating this classic song in a countryfied vein. This is the apex of beauty for the performance… the moment the entire show had been building towards. Perfection. The set ends with a brand new Velvet's song, the last we'll ever see from them as a band, the low-beat twanging "Coyote". This song stands as a testament to just what the unique chemistry of the band was still capable of, even after twenty-three years of distance.

This DVD is a nice way to say goodbye to Sterling Morrison, who died not too long after these shows were recorded, finally succumbing to cancer. And while there is no longer any chance of ever getting a true Velvet's reunion ever again, this DVD will live forever in my collection, proving that these groundbreaking artists and musicians still had the spirit of the music alive within them some 25 years after their original break-up.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Venus in Furs
2. White Light/White Heat
3. Beginning to See the Light
4. Some Kinda Love
5. Femme Fatale
6. Hey Mr. Rain
7. I'm Sticking With You
8. I Heard Her Call My Name
9. I'll Be Your Mirror
10. Rock N'Roll
11. Sweet Jane
12. I'm Waiting for the Man
13. Heroin
14. Pale Blue Eyes
15. Coyote

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